1:45pm

Tue July 26, 2011
Business and the Economy

Concerns Voiced on Post Office Closings

The U.S. Postal Service released a list Tuesday of 3,653 post offices that could be closed, including three in Louisville. But local civil rights leaders are concerned about one of the sites being reviewed because it serves as the only retail store in the city’s West End.  Thousand of offices are being studied for possible closure because of “lower foot traffic and revenue,” as the financially troubled agency continues to find ways to cut costs.  In fiscal year 2010, the Postal Service suffered a $8.5 billion net loss and posted a loss of $2.2 billion in the last quarter, according to CNN.

Most of the offices up for review are in rural areas, but the Louisville branches slated for possible removal are in densely populated urban areas and include the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. branch, an office in the Audubon neighborhood and the facility near the airport.

Louisville NAACP President Raoul Cunningham says he’s worried about the future of the branch in the Shawnee neighborhood, which is among the 120 offices listed for review in the state.

“That is the only postal facility in that immediate area. It also has a high concentration of senior citizens. So it would be a major inconvenience and a concern if the facility were closed,” he says.

But Postal Service spokesman David Walton says just because an office is under review doesn’t necessarily mean it will close, but added the combination of new technology and the poor economy has impacted the agency financially.

“The post office is going through some trying times right now because of our first class mail volume—the drop. We’ve been hit really hard by the rise in social media and also the recession has played a part too. So we are having to adjust our infrastructure across the board,” he says.

Ten years ago, the post office operated around 38,000 retail outlets but has cut those down to 31,871 due in large part to a sharp decline in first-class mail. Earlier this year, the federal agency made a number of consolidations and have closed 280 offices thus far.

In the Tuesday announcement, the Postal Service outlined a replacement strategy that calls for closed post offices to partner with third party businesses in order to create alternative options.

Residents served by those offices slated for review have 60 days to file comments with the branch. If an office is selected to be closed, customers will be able to appeal to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission or attend a public meeting hosted by the Postal Service, but closures wouldn’t take effect until the end of the year.

“The two major concerns the NAACP has addressed, I would hope would be taken into consideration before a  final decision is made,” says Cunningham. “We’ll have to see what the community says about the proposal.”