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Saturday service soon a thing of the past

Business owners, leaders react to U.S. Postal Service decision

STERLING – Lots of folks across the Sauk Valley see little personal impact from the decision this week to eliminate Saturday mail delivery.

The mayor of a small community said that while his residents don’t like the decision by the U.S. Postal Service, they have little choice in the matter.

The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that it will halt Saturday mail service beginning in August to save $2 billion a year. The decision will not affect the delivery of packages.

The announcement shows that the original model doesn’t work anymore, said Postal Service spokesman Sean Hargadon. The organization has seen a 50 percent drop in first-class mail in the past 10 years, he noted.

The Post Plan

Hargadon said the U.S. Postal Service is simply “too big” and is working to adjust that through a variety of measures.

Part of the effort is network consolidation. In addition, the USPS plan calls for adjusting hours at smaller post offices, he said.

In July 2011, the Post Office issued a list of 3,700 offices nationwide that were going to be studied for possible closure.

With this week’s announcement of no more Saturday mail delivery, should residents in small communities across the Sauk Valley and in other areas be worried about their post offices closing?

That’s not part of the plan, Hargadon said.

“Nothing has been closed. There’s been no talk of closing small offices,” he said. “After community input across the country, people didn’t want anything closed. They wanted a post office presence in the towns, especially smaller towns.”

So the new plan calls for “preserving post offices in rural America,” Hargadon said. As part of that plan, meetings are being held in selected communities to discuss the options for their post offices.

One such community is Galt, according to the Postal Service’s list. Community members will be sent a survey with a series of choices about the post office there, Hargadon said.

“One of the choices is closing the office; one of the choices is having a mobile office,” he said. “Another choice is to keep it open and adjust the hours. Ninety-nine percent of people want to say, ‘Keep it open.’”

That 2-year process will be completed in 2014, he said.

Local impact

Deer Grove Mayor Al Thompson said his town, population 50, had already seen hours reduced at its local post office.

The second week of January, the post office’s Saturday hours were reduced from 8 hours a day to 2 1/2. The post office is open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays now, Thompson said.

“We don’t get our mail until noon now,” said Thompson, 64. “Most people leave mail until Monday now.”

Thompson said the end of Saturday service would also likely affect businesses in Deer Grove. He predicted they would “start using UPS if things start shutting down.”

“I’m sure it will close eventually,” Thompson said of the post office. “I hope it doesn’t.”

Sterling resident Darci Imel said no Saturday service does not bother her much.

“Your thoughts do go to the Postal Service as a whole,” said Imel, 32. “Of course, I’ve been in the business world, know how tough it is making cuts and the people that it affects. As far as me receiving mail, I don’t think it would be that much of a difference for me.

“With all the online bill pays and the technology nowadays, unfortunately, that’s the trouble that the Post Office is having.”

Bryce Mead, owner of Mead’s Bike Shop in Sterling, said the possible elimination of Saturday service will have no impact on his business. Mead was more concerned about the possibility of Postal Service layoffs.

“If there’s 10 people that they let go, it will effect the overall economy,” he said. “The fact that I have to wait one extra day for bills to come will not affect me much. What will affect me is if I lose 10 customers because they were laid off.”

When it comes to the impact on employees, Hargadon said, the Postal Service will work through attrition or assign employees to positions where they are needed.

Since 2006, 193,000 positions have been reduced across the Postal Service without layoffs, he said.

Beth Houlihan is president of Kidder Music, which has locations in Bloomington, Peoria and Sterling. She said this week she didn’t foresee the elimination of Saturday service affecting her business.

“Any orders that we’re going to receive would come via UPS or FedEx, which don’t operate on Sunday,” she said. “We receive bills and payments, and they’ll come on Monday.”

Houlihan said she was “not surprised at all” by the Postal Service’s decision.

“It doesn’t bother me,” she said. “It’s just one of those that’s going away. Same with the phone book.”

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