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USPS renews push to reduce window hours





Facing a fast-approaching deadline, the U.S. Postal Service once again has picked up the pace of community meetings to announce reduced window hours for small-town post offices.

Only 15 are yet to be conducted in northwest Kansas, and several of those already have been scheduled.

Beginning shortly after the Fourth of July holiday, a full slate of meetings are set across Kansas, and one will be in Lebanon.

That meeting will be at noon July 8 in the American Legion Hall. Window hours for Lebanon are scheduled to drop to four hours daily, down from eight hours now.

At the community meeting, postal officials will detail when those hours will be and when they will start.

A week later, however, another string of community meetings will be conducted in the state, including two that will detail new hours for Bazine and Bison.

The Bazine meeting is set for 2 p.m. July 17 in the lobby of the Bazine Post Office. The Bison meeting will be three hours later at 5 p.m. in the Bison Community Building.

While only three area meetings are scheduled, another 33 will be conducted at various locations across the state.

The meetings are part of a plan by the USPS to reduce window hours -- and employee costs -- at 13,000 mostly rural post offices across the country.

It's all part of a plan to stanch the flow of red ink by the postal service, even though the reduced hours only will save approximately $500 million annually.

In the second quarter of this fiscal year, USPS reported a net loss of $1.87 billion, something of an improvement from second-quarter performance a year ago.

Most of that improvement was "due to an increase in our shipping and packages volume and the approved price increases that became effective Jan. 26," USPS reported in its second quarter financial statement.

Included in the Jan. 26 price increase was a 3-cent hike in the price of a first-class stamp.

The postal service's earnings report said first-class mail volume dropped 4.1 percent, a loss of 682 million letters.

Despite a 7-percent price hike, the USPS collected just $2 million more as a result of the declining mail volume.

While community meetings dealing with reduced window hours are scheduled to be completed by the end of September, there's still nearly 4,000 left to do across the nation.

In Kansas, it's a little harder to pin down how many are left, but one estimate suggests more than 100 remain.

Northwest Kansas has 15.

Those remaining to be scheduled in the area include: Kensington, Portis, Wilson, Catharine, Kirwin, Logan, Long Island, Norcatur, Paradise, Prairie View, Bird City and Brewster.

They are among several post offices that were left to the last to give postmasters time to find positions in other post offices or retire.

It's possible some will stay on, but at sharply reduced pay rates and on a part-time basis.

Window hours already have been reduced at dozens of post offices in the area including:

Agra, Alexander, Almena, Alton, Bogue, Brownell, Bunker Hill, Cedar, Collyer, Damar, Dorrance, Downs, Edson, Gaylord, Gorham, Gove, Grainfield, Grinnell, Healy, Herndon, Jennings, Kanorado, Lenora, Lucas, Luray, McCracken, McDonald, Morland, Natoma, Otis, Palco, Portis, Ransom, Rexford, Rush Center, Selden, Sylvan Grove, Utica, Waldo, Weskan, Winona and Woodston.