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February 7, 2013

Sat. letter delivery nears end

By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star

---- — The U.S. Postal Service’s announcement that it intends to end Saturday mail delivery Aug. 1, didn’t raise many hackles Wednesday among post office customers in Oneonta, but union officials said rural customers may feel the real bite.

“I don’t see it as being that big of a deal, really,” said Wayne Terbush of Oneonta. “I understand that they need to save money, just like any other business.”

For rural postal customers, though, it may be a bigger deal.

“Saturday mail delivery is an important communication and marketing tool used by millions of citizens and mailers across the country, especially in rural areas that lack broadband Internet access,” said Jeanette P. Dwyer, president of the National Rural Letter Carriers Association, which serves that population.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, in announcing the plan, said the Postal Service would continue to deliver packages on Saturdays, and that post offices currently open on Saturdays would remain open, although the Washington Post, reported that postal officials said some of those post offices may have their hours cut.

A press release from the Postal Service said the decision to continue package deliveries on Saturdays was based on strong growth – 14 percent since 2010 – in that part of its business. First-class mail, on the other hand, has declined by 20 percent during that time, it said.

The service said it lost $15.9 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, and that the new plan would save $2 billion a year.

“I can’t understand why they don’t have money,” Dino Johnson said outside the Oneonta Post Office on Wednesday.

Mike Pentaris, however, was all for the move.

“I think it’s good,” he said. “It’ll save some money.”

The Postal Service is supposed to be a self-supporting agency, but it is subject to congressional oversight and control. The rural mail carriers’ union chief referred to that Wednesday in her criticism of the announcement.

“Since 2006 the Postal Service has been mandated by law to prefund future retiree health benefits, a 75-year obligation, in only 10 years,” Dwyer said in a press release. “This has left them drowning in red ink. While no other federal agency or business is burdened by such an extreme pre-funding requirement, the Postal Service is shackled and left to fail.”

The National Association of Letter Carriers, which represents mail carriers in cities, towns and suburbia, also referred to Congress in condemning plan.

“This maneuver by Mr. Donahoe flouts the will of Congress, as expressed annually over the past 30 years in legislation that mandates six-day delivery, which remains in effect today,” it said in a statement. “In the last Congress, which ended in January, a bipartisan majority of representatives co-sponsored legislation backing the continuation of Saturday delivery.”

Fred Kinner, president of the New York state division of the Rural Mail Carriers Association, wasn’t sure what to make of the announcement.

“How it’s going to affect our craft, your guess is as good as mine at this point, because we don’t all the particulars on how they’re going to actually implement it,” Kinner said. “And the fact that he (Donahoe) says that they’re still going to deliver parcels on Saturday, I guess I don’t understand the reasoning behind delivering the parcels and not the rest of the mail.”

Kinner also was unsure about how many or even whether jobs would be eliminated.

“I assume that’s what they’re thinking,” he said. “But until we hear more particulars on what the plan actually is, I really couldn’t tell you how it would affect us. … (Donahoe is) announcing there’s going to be partial delivery, which kind of complicates things, because how do you deliver the parcels without having carriers go out on their routes?”

“I think it’s bad, myself,” Johnson said when asked whether he thought ending Saturday service was good or bad.

“Everyone looks forward to getting mail.”