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Sutersville residents fight for post office

Joe Napsha
| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Sutersville-area residents on Tuesday voiced their opposition to the Postal Service's proposal to reduce the window service at the town's post office from eight hours to four on weekdays, saying this could be just the first step toward closing the small office.

“I'm happy we're not closing (the Sutersville post office). This is the best option,” Sutersville Mayor Alaina Breakrion said after the community meeting at the town's municipal center.

The Postal Service in Pittsburgh probably will make its final decision within a month on keeping Sutersville's window service open from 8 a.m. to noon on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, said Joseph Scherder, operations manager for 86 post offices in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The Postal Service will review the comments from the meeting and will notify customers of the final decision in a month. The changes could be implemented sometime between five weeks and two months, Scherder said.

The proposed changes were opposed by many of the nearly 60 who attended the meeting, despite Scherder's explanation that it was part of the Postal Service's nationwide plan released last year to reduce costs because of the reduction in revenue. The U.S. Postal Service, which lost $1.3 billion in the last three months of 2012, said its debt could reach $45 billion by around 2017 if Congress doesn't pass legislation allowing it to change its business model.

The post office in Sutersville is losing money, and the Postal Service has to reduce operating hours to slash costs to match the revenue the post office generates, Scherder said.

“I'm very, very upset” by the plan to cut the hours of the post office, Joy Wright of Sutersville said.

If window service is available fewer hours a day, revenue likely will drop and that could lead to hours being cut even more, Wright said.

“People will change their habits,” and possibly use the local post office less, Wright said.

“Reducing the hours will hurt the poor and the elderly the most,” said Paula DeClaudio of Sutersville.

If the Sutersville post office's business does not improve by the time the postal operations are re-evaluated at the end of 2014, the window service could be cut to just two hours a day, Scherder said.

The Postal Service determined that morning hours would be best suited for the community, a large segment of which is elderly and retired, based on the results of the survey returned by 158 of the post office's 473 customers.

Eighty-seven percent of the respondents favored realigning the hours that window service was available to buy stamps and mail packages, while just 2 percent of the respondents wanted a village post office where stamps could be purchased and some packages mailed at a business or town hall, Scherder said.

Breakiron said she would not favor a village post office because that would siphon revenue — stamp purchases and mailing packages — away from the office.

None of the respondents favored closing the Sutersville facility and moving their postal service to a nearby post office, such as West Newton, which is four miles away.

“Six hours would be great,” because many people can't get to the post office in the mornings, JoAnn Casoni of Sutersville said.

Even with the proposed reduction in window service, Scherder sought to assure residents that the post office lobby would remain open in the afternoons for customers to get their mail from post office boxes. A security survey of the area will be conducted to determine if the lobby could stay open longer, he said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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