Who’ll sell you stamps in future?By SARA YOUNG-KNOX
Union Leader Correspondent
June 13. 2012 11:13PM
In the most recent plan designed to staunch the flow of red ink, the U.S. Postal Service has proposed cutting retail hours at post offices across the country - and sometimes reinventing the position of postmaster.
One of those post offices is in South Tamworth, where a group of vocal citizens worked to stave off the previous plan to close it down.
'I'm glad we're going to keep at least some open hours at the post office, but I'm worried about what will happen to our postmaster,' South Tamworth resident Kate Vachon said of Deb Burkett. 'She's given us terrific service with a human touch.'
Postmasters at post offices that could see their retail hours cut to two or four hours a day were recently notified of their options. Career employees can take early retirement, if eligible, accept a buy-out offer, or wait until July 2014 and face the consequences of the reduction in force.
Before that date, they can apply for transfers to other facilities that have open positions.
Except for shorter window hours, post office officials say patrons will see no change.
'A postal employee (postmaster relief) will continue to offer full postal products and services the same as before,' Tom Rizzo, communication coordinator for the Northern New England District, said in an email.
Current postmasters will not be considered for the position of postmaster relief employee unless they are no longer USPS employees, he said. Postmasters of facilities that are taking on the administrative responsibilities of the smaller post offices will see their classification, and pay, go up.
'The postmasters will serve as facility head of an Administrative Post Office with new responsibilities, including oversight of several nearby post offices,' Rizzo said.
'Community meetings will be held at all locations under consideration for this new operating alternative, except at locations where the PO has already closed.
A PO will remain open unless the community has a strong preference for another option, for instance a Village Post Office operating as part of a local retail establishment,' he said.
Communities in which hours will be cut to two a day are Lyme Center and Glencliff. The post office in Sugar Hill has already seen its hours reduced, and is now served by a rural carrier.
Previously, Denise Varano, a Northeast Area spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, explained that facility was never considered a full-fledged post office, but as a NPU- Non Personnel Unit.
'It was very real to us,' Sugar Hill resident Nancy Martland said Wednesday. 'It was only open three hours a day anyway, so the hours were already reduced as far as we were concerned. Perhaps the most disturbing thing to many of us is the way this was handled and continues to be handled by the Post Office. That is, with utter disregard for our community.'
Retail hours in South Tamworth, under the latest proposal, will be reduced to four hours a day.
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Sara Young-Knox may be reached at email@example.com.