June 04, 2020
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‘Don’t mess with Mayberry’: Residents protest Orrington post office cuts

ORRINGTON, Maine — Post office users in this small Penobscot County town should expect to see a reduction in window service hours sometime in the future, a U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman said during a sparsely attended meeting late Wednesday afternoon.

While a time frame has yet to be determined for that and other changes planned for the Orrington post office, cutbacks are part of the U.S. Postal Service’s strategy for staying afloat in the face of shrinking revenue, according to Susan Mills, manager of post office operations for ZIP codes beginning 044, 046 and 047.

Customers will be given at least 30 days notice before any changes are made, she said.

Unveiled in May of last year, the Post Office Structure Plan provides a framework for cutting costs so the USPS can regain its financial stability, according to a news release issued last year.

The service was losing more than $23 million a day at the time. That number has since grown to $25 million a day, according to a USPS official who attended the Orrington meeting.

As part of the effort, residents of Orrington and other small, rural communities are being asked to weigh in on what their postal service should look like in the future.

Mills said surveys were mailed to Orrington’s 1,619 postal customers, 413 of whom responded. The point of the survey was to determine customers’ preferences for retail and delivery services in the aftermath of major restructuring. Orrington customers also were asked which business hours they would prefer if the decision is to cut back to four hours a day.

The results showed that the vast majority of respondents — 73 percent — favored a realignment of hours, Mills said.

Another 9 percent supported a delivery-only option, 6 percent favored using a nearby post office and 5 percent wanted the village post office option, which is a limited service site housed at a local business through a contract. The remaining 7 percent did not select an option but provided written comments, Mills said.

Based on the results and the post office’s operational needs, retail hours for Orrington are slated to be cut from just under eight hours on weekdays to four on weekdays, Mills said. The survey indicated that residents favored having retail hours from 12:45 to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Saturday retail hours, which now run from 8 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., would remain the same, she said.

To ensure post office box holders have access to their mail and packages, the lobby likely will be open 24 hours a day, Mills said. That provision, however, could change if there are problems with vandals or vagrants, she said.

To residents Shelly Eames and Reina Boudreau, the post office is about more than just mail — it’s a community gathering place.

“People come here every day to get their mail,” Boudreau said before the meeting got underway.

“And to see the postmaster and to chat,” added Eames, who brought to the meeting a petition signed by 55 people to keep the current operating hours.

“This is Mayberry and you don’t mess with Mayberry,” Eames said.

The only other residents who attended were Joe and Rayleen Berry, who own the post office building.

Nationally, 13,000 post offices would be affected by the restructuring plan, Rizzo said. Of those, 244 are in Maine, Tom Rizzo, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service Northern New England District, said in October.

The restructuring plan will be implemented by September 2014, postal officials said last year. Once it has been fully implemented, the USPS projects it will save a half billion dollars annually.

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