Fewer Post Offices Considered for Closure

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 3, 2009

The U.S. Postal Service removed more than 200 sites Wednesday, including one in Montgomery County, from its list of post offices that may be closed.

Twelve postal facilities in the District and the Maryland suburbs still face the prospect of being closed, along with 401 others across the nation.

The Postal Service's list is an update from one it released in late July, which named 677 facilities as being possibly closed. After that report was leaked to reporters by congressional staffers, it launched a firestorm of outrage from those who live in affected neighborhoods, as well as their congressional representatives.

The Postal Service is required to provide the information to the Postal Regulatory Commission, which is reviewing closure and consolidation plans. Earlier, the Postal Service advised the PRC of up to 1,000 sites facing the possibility of closure.

Final decisions will be made after Oct. 2, and postal officials have said privately that they expect no more than 200 facilities to be on the final list.

Postmaster General John E. Potter would not commit to an exact number of closures when asked by reporters earlier this summer, prompting Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to scold him during a congressional hearing.

The Derwood Post Office in Rockville was spared because officials could not find adequate nearby space for its P.O. boxes, according to Postal Service regional spokeswoman Luvenia Hyson. Moving the boxes would have been too costly and would have inconvenienced customers because of the distance to the next closest postal facility, she said.

Sites won't close or be consolidated until 60 days after they are approved for closure and thus are unlikely to be shuttered by year's end, postal spokesman Greg Frey said.

The Postal Service operates almost 37,000 facilities nationwide.

Mail volume will drop by as much as 20 billion pieces in 2009 from a year earlier, down to roughly 170 billion pieces of mail, according to the Postal Service. The agency lost $2.4 billion during its third quarter and forecasts a $7 billion loss when its fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

The closing of postal facilities is one of several cost-cutting moves under consideration. Others include a plan to offer bonuses to up to 30,000 employees to encourage them to retire or quit their jobs, and a push to have Congress change the Postal Service's schedule of payments to fund retiree health benefits.

The full Postal Service list of sites under consideration is at washingtonpost.com/federaleye.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company