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Laughlintown post office faces cuts to retail hours of operation

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Mary Page, OIC for the Laughlintown Post Office, checks the mailbox along Route 30.

Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media

 by Sean Stipp on February 25, 2013 in Laughlintown.
Tribune-Review
Mary Page, OIC for the Laughlintown Post Office, checks the mailbox along Route 30. Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media by Sean Stipp on February 25, 2013 in Laughlintown.
The Laughlintown Post Office along Route 30 is one of 13,000 rural post office locations under review by the POST Plan, a strategy to preserve the nation's smaller post offices by keeping them open with modified hours.

Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media

Photo by Sean Stipp on February 25, 2012.
Tribune-Review
The Laughlintown Post Office along Route 30 is one of 13,000 rural post office locations under review by the POST Plan, a strategy to preserve the nation's smaller post offices by keeping them open with modified hours. Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media Photo by Sean Stipp on February 25, 2012.

U.S. Postal Service Post Office Operations Manager William Battles Jr. met with two dozen Laughlintown residents last week to discuss the possible future of the rural post office.

The community meeting was part of the POST Plan strategy initiated by the postal service in September 2012 to preserve 13,000 smaller post offices throughout the country.

“The POST Plan is a strategy we have developed to maintain smaller post offices rather than close them,” said Tad Kelley, a spokesman from the postal service's Pittsburgh district. “It is the driving force behind all of the cost-reduction and rightsizing actions we have undertaken the past half-decade as we have seen mail usage and post office usage decline dramatically.”

A handout distributed at the meeting informed the group gathered at the Ligonier Country Inn in Laughlintown that future retail hours of operation at the post office would likely be 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday - Friday and 9 a.m. - noon Saturday. The decision was based on the results of a survey mailed to 370 Laughlintown customers. Saturday window service hours will not be reduced and access to delivery receptacles will not change as a result of the realignment of weekday window service hours.

Residents in all of the 13,000 communities received a survey prior to the scheduled meeting, requesting a preference for one of four options.

The option selected for future service in Laughlintown, although not final, was made after reviewing the 230 surveys returned. It will also take into account the postal service's operational needs.

The Laughlintown survey indicated that 80 percent or 185 customers, preferred a realignment of hours option.

A second option offered home delivery which was preferred by only 24 customers.

Five customers selected the village post office option — the post office would be located within the existing community in a retail shop, local library or town hall. The village post office would be run by the management of that business.

Only five customers opted to pick up mail at a nearby post office — Ligonier Post Office is located 3.2 miles from Laughlintown while the next closest locations would be Jennerstown at 7.3 miles and Gary at 10.9 miles away.

Tina Yandrick director of operations at the Ligonier Valley Historical Society said she is glad the post office will remain open. “I want the post office to stay in Laughlintown. It is a convenience for local businesses like ours when we need to send out bulk mailings,” she said. “The Laughlintown post office offers easy access with level parking and no steps. That is important when you are taking boxes in for shipping.”

Yandrick is concerned about reduced hours at the retail window, however.

“At times it could be difficult to meet the 1 p.m. closing time, especially when we are preparing our newsletters or grant applications on deadline. This will force us to go elsewhere to get it mailed by the end of the day. And that takes us away from the office.”

The Laughlintown post office has been serving customers from Rector since 2005, after the U.S. Postal Service suspended operation at that post office — run out of a century-old home owned by Ida Ankney Tenney — after Tenney terminated the post office's lease.

In 2010, the Postal Regulatory Commission examined the Rector post office and 96 others that were also put on emergency suspension since 2005 because of lease expirations. At that time, Kelley said reopening that office was a long shot because of the sagging economy.

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or dbrehun@tribweb.com.

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