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Federal Eye
Posted at 07:45 AM ET, 07/29/2011

Public can have its say on USPS proposed closings

Have something to say about the U.S. Postal Service’s announced plans this week to consider closing more than 3,700 post offices?

The Postal Regulatory Commission is set to begin reviewing the postal plans, including soliciting public comment.

“The Advisory Opinion process is the opportunity for the public’s concerns...to be heard,” regulatory chair Ruth Goldway said in a statement Thursday.

“The Commission supports the Postal Service’s efforts to become more efficient, but with regard to post offices, significant changes must be done within the framework of the legal requirement to provide universal service.” Goldway continued.

On Tuesday the financially troubled USPS launched its largest downsizing effort in its history. The 3,700 post offices being considered for closing have been designated as unprofitable, said USPS, which plans to replace about 2,500 of those sites with a “Village Post Office.” The new business model would mean service delivered via a clerk in a local store, gas station, library or town hall. Customers would be able to buy stamps and ship flat-rate packages at the sites, but little else.

USPS hopes to start closing sites beginning in January. The effort will affect the jobs of 4,500 postmasters, station managers, supervisors and clerks. Though some would be able to apply for USPS positions, others would lose their jobs outright.

In the Washington area, 32 post offices could be lost. Another 124 elsewhere in Maryland and Virginia are targeted, with other sites scattered across 47 other states.

The regulatory commission will begin scrutinizing the USPS plans immediately, it said, as well as during its hearings, though the schedule has yet to be issued. As the commission noted, USPS is required by law to seek an advisory opinion on proposed changes to nationwide service. Changes can’t be enacted until 90 days after filing its request for that advisory opinion.

The regulatory commission is taking public comment on its web site at www.prc.gov. and plans to announce its hearing schedule soon, the panel said.

The public certainly gets to have its say, but how much it will matter is an open question. As Goldway has noted, the commission’s recommendations are not binding, but “to the extent that the potential changes are debated in public, the recommendations we make are often incorporated into the Postal Service’s final plans.”

By Marcia Davis  |  07:45 AM ET, 07/29/2011

 
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