Bending to strong public opposition, the nearly bankrupt U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday backed off a plan to close thousands of rural post offices after May 15 and proposed keeping them open, but with shorter operating hours.
The proposal affects several post office in the Upper Peninsula and northeastern Wisconsin, but does not change the status of the Kingsford Mail Processing Center.
A list of affected post offices shows that local offices in Channing, Felch, Foster City, Hermansville, Goodman, Amberg, Armstrong Creek will reduce retail service from eight hours to four hours.
The Quinnesec Post Office retail hours will be reduced from 8 hours to six hours, and the Vulcan Post Office will be reduced from eight hours to two hours.
The move to halt the shuttering of 3,700 low-revenue post offices followed months of dissent from rural states and their lawmakers, who said the cost-cutting would hurt their communities the most. In recent weeks, rising opposition had led Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to visit some rural areas in a bid to ease fears about cuts that could slow delivery of prescription drugs, newspapers and other services.
In an election year, the angst over postal closings also extended to nearly half the senators, who in letters last week urged Donahoe to postpone closing any mail facility until Congress approves final postal overhaul legislation. The Senate last month passed a bill that would halt many of the closings; the House remains stalled over a separate bill allowing for aggressive cuts.
"I could live with this plan, and I think the majority of people could," said June Nygren, who runs the Jersey Lilly Saloon & Eatery in the tiny Montana town of Ingomar. Donahoe visited the rural town of about 80 people last month, which welcomed him with a spread of home-made baked goods and a packed school gymnasium as people pleaded for their post office to stay open.
"I felt he really paid attention, and apparently he did," Nygren said.
At a news briefing, Donahoe said he hoped the latest plan will help allay much of rural America's concern about postal cutbacks. He prodded Congress to act quickly on legislation that will allow the agency to move ahead with its broader multi-billion dollar cost-cutting effort and return to profitability by 2015.