BURLINGTON Several Burlington residents who attended a meeting at their post office Tuesday night heard a message that many small communities have heard and will continue to hear in coming days.
As a cost-saving measure, the U.S. Postal Service is cutting hours at thousands of post offices nationwide, including about 215 in North Dakota. The Burlington post office could lose an hour of weekday window time, opening six hours rather than the current seven.
Meetings also were held Tuesday in Des Lacs and Carpio, which are looking at having window hours shortened to four a day.
Wanda Cleveland, manager of post office operations in western North Dakota, reads a statement from the Postal Service at a meeting in the Burlington post Office, regarding its plans to modify the hours of many small post offices.
Burlington will have a postmaster, said Wanda Cleveland, manager of post office operations in western North Dakota. Postmaster positions are being eliminated nationally in many of the offices that are going to shorter hours, with management provided by a remote administrative office, she said.
Cleveland explained the Postal Service's need to trim cuts because of a reduced business due to changes in society.
"People are doing more things on line. Many of these transactions and social interactions used to be conducted through the mail. That means fewer stamps bought and much less postage paid," she said.
The Postal Service has been consolidating mail processing plants and selling off unnecessary buildings while freezing executive salaries.
"But we still need to do more to reduce our infrastructure," Cleveland said.
After scrapping a plan to close small post offices, the Postal Service announced a new plan last May to keep post offices open by adjusting retail window hours based on customer use. The Postal Service plans to implement the plan in phases over two years, with completion in September 2014.
As part of the process, residents in affected communities receive a survey requesting a preference for one of four options available. Options include switching to mail delivery, setting up a local establishment as a village post office or getting service from a nearby post office. At the follow-up community meeting, local postal management share the results of the survey and answer questions. The first community meetings began Oct. 9.
Post offices included in the surveys will remain open with modified hours unless a community has a strong preference for one of the other options. If a community chooses modified post office window hours, it would not affect Saturday hours and access to postal boxes.
The Postal Service received 223 surveys back after mailing 732 in the Burlington area. Results showed 94 percent favored realignment of hours to more drastic options.
Asked about the projected growth in Burlington, which could quadruple the size of the city, Cleveland said restoring the extra hour is an option in the future if circumstances change. Any Burlington business also could request to open a village post office to offer many of the postal services over longer hours.
Tentative hours at the Burlington Post Office would be 8 to 11:30 a.m. and noon to 2:30 p.m. That would be a change in the afternoon hours, which currently run 1 to 4:30 p.m.
The Postal Service will post its decision on the hours next week, but no change will occur before mid-January, Cleveland said.
Area communities with upcoming postal meetings are: today, Epping, Arnegard, Alexander; Oct. 29, Wolford, Willow City, Sykeston; Oct. 30, Rolette, St. John, Ambrose, Alamo, Grenora, Bowdon; Oct. 31, Benedict, Coleharbor; Nov. 1, Kramer, Souris, Antler; Nov. 7, Ray, Ross; Nov. 8, Max, Roseglen, Ryder; Nov. 16, Granville, Sawyer, Surrey. For times and to verify dates, which are subject to change, people should contact their local post offices.