The U.S. Postal Service will issue a verdict on the future of the Gibson Post Office on Friday, following a public input session last week.
“About four weeks ago, the postal service sent a letter to everyone in the community and a copy of a survey,” said Doris Reed, manager of post office operations for the Mid-Carolinas District of the USPS. “The letter explained that we were beginning a new program called POStPlan. It is designed to give communities the opportunity to preserve their post offices with realigned hours.”
The POStPlan, or Post Office Structure Plan, announced by the postal service in May, targets some 13,000 rural post offices nationwide, 235 of them in North Carolina. The POStPlan replaces an older plan to close offices with fewer than two hours of workload daily and less than $27,500 in annual revenue - some 3,600 nationwide.
Reed met with some 50 members of the Gibson community in a public meeting on Friday. Of 965 surveys sent to Gibson addresses last month, 207 were returned. The survey was designed to gauge the public’s opinion of a six-hour post office workday. At present, the post office is open for eight hours on weekdays.
Of the surveys returned, 192 expressed a preference for a shortened workday, three respondents selected other options, and 12 did not make a selection. Other options included offering postal services at a local business and closing the Gibson Post Office entirely. Reed said that the goal of the POStPlan is to cut costs without complete closure of any post offices, no matter how small.
“Every year, the postal service is going to reevaluate all offices,” she said. “Our intent is to keep all the post offices open as long as we can. Right now, the only plans out there right now are for post offices to go to a two-hour post office, a four-hour post office, or a six-hour. We have no plans on the table to close any post offices.”
The proposed new hours are from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, with a half-hour lunch closure around 1 p.m. Saturday’s hours, from 8:30 to 11 a.m., will remain the same.
For Janet Gaudiomonte, who operates a business via the auction site eBay, closure of the Gibson post office would be a hardship.
“I mail every day, and I get mail every day. I need to get stuff out and I’ve got to do it within 24 hours,” said Gaudiomonte. “It affects my selling fees if I have more than a one-day handling time; it actually costs me more. Every night, I’m up packing stuff to go the next day.”
Overall, those present at the meeting seemed to understand the need for a reduction in hours.
“Everybody understands why the post office, or anything nowadays with email and banking online, has to cut the mail back, but I’m glad the citizens got to show their concern about keeping it open for at least six hours,” said Thomas McKay.
“The possibility that the post office was going to close I think floored this whole community, and what you’re presenting to us today sounds good to me in comparison to closing completely,” said former Gibson postmistress Sadie Odom.
Notice of the postal service’s decision regarding Gibson’s post office will be posted on Friday.
“After reviewing all the comments and questions that I may get from today’s meeting, we’ll post the final notice of the operating hours of this office one week from today,” Reed said. “That notice will also contain information about how the postal service will maintain access to your delivery receptacles or post office boxes.”
The decision made this week will be subject to reevaluation in the future, but will stand until at least 2014, Reed said.