The Postal Service is considering closing more than 1 in 10 of its post offices nationwide, including 131 in Kentucky and nine in Letcher County.
The financially troubled agency announced Tuesday that it will study 3,653 local offices, branches and stations for possible closing. Those slated for review in Letcher County are Burdine, Deane, Eolia, Hallie, Jackhorn, Partridge, Premium, Roxana and Seco, some of which are among the county’s oldest.
The Burdine Post Office was established in January 1898, about 13 years before the City of Jenkins of which it later became a part of was established by Consolidation Coal Co. Ironically, Burdine was named after Burdine Webb, who carried mail from Whitesburg.
The Jackhorn Post Office was established in November 1916 to serve the community known as Hemphill. The Seco Post Office was established in October 1915 to serve a community founded by South East Coal Co. executives Harry Laviers Sr. and A.D. Smith.
None of the closings, if in fact they do happen, would occur before December.
“It’s no secret that the Postal Service is looking to change the way we do a lot of things,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said at a briefing. “We do feel that we are still relevant to the American public and the economy, but we have to make some tough choices.”
Currently the post office operates 31,871 retail outlets across the country, down from 38,000 a decade ago, but in recent years business has declined sharply as first-class mail moved to the Internet. In addition, the recession resulted in a decline in advertising mail, and the agency lost $8 billion last year.
Most of the offices that face re- view are in rural areas and have low volumes of business. As many as 3,000 post offices have only two hours of business a day even though they are open longer, said postal vice president Dean Granholm.
Coming under review doesn’t necessarily mean an office will close. The post office announced in January it was reviewing 1,400 offices for possible closing. So far 280 have been closed and 200 have finished the review process and will remain open.
Once an office is selected for a review, people served by that office will have 60 days to file their comments. If an office is to be closed, they will be able to appeal to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission.
The vast majority of sales in post offices are stamp purchases, officials said, and that can easily be handled at what the service is calling Village Post Offices in which postal services are offered in local stores, libraries or government offices.
Over the last four years the Postal Service, which does not receive tax funds for its operations, has cut its staff by about 130,000 and reduced costs by $12 billion in an effort to cope with the loss of first class mail to the Internet and the decline in advertising mail caused by the recession. For example, about half of all bill payments are made by Internet now, up from 5 percent a decade ago.
Postal officials have also sought permission from Congress to reduce mail delivery to five-days-a-week and to ease the requirement that they pay $5.5 billion annually into a fund to prepay future retiree medical benefits.
Without the $5.5 billion annual pre- payment — which is not required of any other government agency — the post office would have made a profit over the past four years. However, because of the complex way federal finances are structured, the payment is counted as income to the government and eliminating it would make the federal deficit appear to be $5.5 billion larger.
Compiled from Mountain Eagle and Associated Press reports.