Lincolnville Center Post Office hours to be cut
Lincolnville — Hours of retail operation at the Lincolnville Center Post Office will be reduced in early 2013 in conjunction with the Post Office Structure or POST plan.
An informational meeting conducted Jan. 8 at the small post office drew a crowd of about a dozen residents, who stood in the lobby as United States Postal Service Northern New England Manager of Consumer and Industry Contact Kathy Rokowski spoke about the impending changes and the POST plan in general.
Rokowski began the meeting by distributing an informational handout detailing the results of surveys distributed to box holders on Nov. 28. The letter stated that the "Postal Service intends to maintain the Lincolnville Center Post Office with four hours of window service each weekday."
Lincolnville selectmen voted Dec.10 to send a letter in support of keeping the Lincolnville Center Post Office open during regular hours, said Lincolnville Town Administrator David Kinney in a December interview.
The November survey asked box holders to choose one of four options for the future of the Lincolnville Center Post Office, including realignment of hours, home mail delivery, a village post office (limited services at a contracted retail space,) or the option of doing business at a nearby post office.
The option of keeping the hours of operation as usual, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and a partial day Saturday, was not given.
"There is no option to keep it as it is," said Rokowski, referring to the post office's current hours. She said the decisions are made at a federal level and are based on the "workload" of the rural post offices undergoing evaluation.
Eighty-nine percent of the 104 postal customers who returned the survey voted in favor of a realignment of hours, according to the handout distributed by Rokowski. Though surveys were available at the Lincolnville Center Post Office, they were only sent directly to residents who have boxes there. Some residents wondered why the surveys had not been distributed more widely.
"I'm not a box holder, but this does affect me," said Greta Gulezian. Attendees had the option of filling out a survey at the meeting if they had not already done so.
Rokowski said 13,000 rural post offices are undergoing changes due to the POST plan. She said the United States Postal Service currently loses millions each day, and the USPS experienced a 27 percent drop in retail visits annually between 2005 and 2011, according to the handout distributed by Rokowski. She said increasing electronic and alternative communication options are impacting the need for visits to local post offices, business with USPS can often be conducted electronically, she said.
"[USPS] is losing $25 million a day as of yesterday," said Rokowski Jan. 8.
Some residents voiced concern about the limited hours at the retail window, which will be reduced to four hours a day during the week, which will be open from 7:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., closed, and re-opened from 1:45 p.m. until 3:45 p.m. Saturday hours will remain the same, with the post office retail window open from 8:15 a.m. until 11:30.
"I understand what you're saying...but we don't have options," Rokowski said. She said the Lincolnville Center Post Office would be reevaluated in 2014.
"It's a wonderful sign that you want to support your local post office," she said.
Access to post office boxes will remain the same or could even be expanded, said Rokowski. She said it is possible that Lincolnville Center Post Office could be a candidate for 24-hour box access, but she said that would have to be determined by USPS inspectors.
"[24-hour access] is very doable, and it works," she said. "They are looking at that for this facility, it comes down to the inspectors."
The USPS has recently begun to implement the POST plan, said Rokowski. In response to queries from residents about the impact of POST, she said there is no data on whether the plan helps or hurts small post offices because it is too early to tell. She said the bottom line is reducing the amount spent on labor to keep the rural post offices open full-time.
Rokowski said that within seven days of the Jan. 8 informational meeting a 30-day notice about the changes would "more than likely" be posted. The reduced hours will go into effect sometime after that 30-day period, she said.
"You have the ability to band together as a community" to bring increased business to the Lincolnville Center Post Office, Rokowski stated.
The option of a Village Post Office, or VPO was briefly discussed. A VPO option could co-exist to augment the Lincolnville Center Post Office, she said. VPO locations are able provide limited services, mailing pre-paid packages and selling stamps in an existing retail location or a town hall or library, she said.
The Hope General Store is a Contract Postal Unit and not a VPO, she explained, adding that CPU locations are able to offer more services then VPO locations. There is a post office in Lincolnville Beach that handles the mail for Islesboro and Northport in addition to a portion of Lincolnville, said Brad Penniman who is the postmaster at the Lincolnville Beach Post Office, which is about five miles from Lincolnville Center.
"In conclusion, write another letter to your mother," said resident Jens Ostergaard, encouraging the increased use of the Lincolnville Center Post Office.
Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com