ABBOT, Maine — The U.S. Postal Service will hold a public meeting at the Abbot post office at 4 p.m. Thursday, July 17 to solicit input on a plan to cut back operating hours due to reduced customer traffic.
The realignment of operating hours is part of the U.S. Postal Service Post Plan, which is designed to keep rural post offices open but at a reduced cost.
According to post plan coordinator Jim McCartney, surveys were sent to residents “to help determine the best course of action for providing postal services,” which include cutting operations to six hours per day.
McCartney’s letter indicated the Abbot post office isn’t in any immediate danger of closing.
“Unless the community has a strong preference … for conducting a discontinuance study for the Abbot post office and establishing one of the additional services (a contractor-based retail unit), the postal service intends to maintain the post office with six hours of window service each weekday,” he wrote.
The Abbot post office is currently open seven and a half hours per day Monday through Friday and three and a half hours Saturday, according to Postmaster Shelley Knowlton, who has been with the Postal Service for 24 years.
The facility was relocated in 2000 to the former Abbot Elementary School, which is owned by the town, on West Road, or Route 16. The Postal Service leases the building, Knowlton said.
The Postal Service will also hold hearings at 13 other rural post offices this week on the Post Plan realignment, including Brownville at 6:30 p.m. July 17.
The other affected post offices are in Belgrade Lakes, Birch Harbor, Freedom, Greenbush, Hanover, Monhegan, Passadumkeag, Port Clyde, Smithfield, South Bristol, Troy and Winter Harbor.
Melissa Lohnes from the Postal Service corporate communications office in Boston told the Observer the agency takes feedback from the meetings into account.
“We based the proposed hours on the times when retail services are utilized and adjusted them to meet the customers’ needs,” Lohnes said.
Feedback at the public meetings is very important, she added.
“If enough people feel that the schedule isn’t suitable, we’ll certainly take their feelings into consideration,” she said. “The public is encouraged to attend.”
The realignment of rural post office operating hours is only one step taken by the agency to try and stem mounting financial losses.
According to a fact sheet on the Postal Service website, a 25 percent decline in mail volume since 2007 has reduced annual revenue by $10 billion, despite regular price increases as permitted by law.
As many people switch to email, online banking and other electronic communications, their greatest revenue loss — $7.8 billion — has been in their most profitable product: first-class mail.
There are approximately 420 post offices in Maine employing 3,000 people, according to the Postal Service.
Maine nearly lost its Postal Service processing facility in Hampden a few years ago, but Maine’s Congressional delegation led the fight to keep it open. Closure would have meant the loss or relocation of about 170 jobs.
It also would have left Maine with only one processing plant, in the southern Maine city of Scarborough.