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Saturday mail cutback upsets W.Va. lawmakers

U.S. Postal Service announces Saturday mail cutback

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --  The U.S. Postal Service's decision to stop delivering mail on Saturdays is separate from ongoing discussions to cut retail hours at rural post offices in West Virginia, an official said.

In an announcement Wednesday, the Postal Service said the Saturday mail cutback would begin in August. The service would continue to deliver packages six days a week.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., issued a statement Wednesday saying the Postal Service doesn't have authority to cutback Saturday mail without congressional appro val.

"The Postal Service cannot circumvent the will of the Congress, which has been explicit in requiring the continuance of a six-day mail delivery service for the last thirty years," Rahall said. "Whatever basis the Postal Service is claiming to discontinue Saturday mail delivery, it runs counter to the spirit and letter of the law, and I intent to press hard to ensure that the Postal Service abides by the law."

Cathy Yarosky, spokeswoman for the Postal Service, said the government is operating under a temporary budget measure, known as a continuing resolution, in which a mandate does not apply. This gives the service authority to make the changes without Congressional approval, she said. That resolution expires March 27.

"We urge Congress not to take any action to prevent this schedule change," Yarosky said.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., issued a separate statement Wednesday denouncing the service's decision.

"In our rural areas, these postal facilities are more than just places to send and receive mail -- they are truly the lifelines of their communities and can be the only way a town is able to stay connected," Manchin said. "Although the Postal Service must cut back on spending and get its fiscal house in order, cutting the muscle instead of the fat from its budget will not benefit the agency and will harm our communities in West Virginia and across our country."

Yarosky said Wednesday's announcement is separate from the "Post Plan," which is an ongoing review of retail hours at thousands of post offices nationwide. The service would eventually review 478 of West Virginia's 755 post offices.

This review includes hundreds of meetings with locals to gather feedback on proposed changes or possible closures. Surveys would also be sent to every customer affected by those respective changes, Yarosky said.

At the end, the service makes the final decision about an office's hours. The service expects to finalize hourly adjustments at all post offices by September 2014.

"West Virginia has more of these little post offices than any other state," she said.

Not everyone is receptive to the proposed changes to retail hours though.

In October, AdvoCare Inc., a nonprofit organization in Morgan County, filed a complaint with the Postal Regulatory Commission about changed retail hours at the Great Cacapon post office. The commission dismissed that complaint last week.

Rahall said he met with members of the National League of Postmasters ahead of Wednesday's announcement and shared some of their frustrations with the service's cost savings reductions.

"I will continue to press the Postal Service to look at other ways to become more profitable and competitive by improving and modernizing its services rather than cutting off rural customers and undermining its pubic service obligations," he said.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.

 


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