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July 07. 2013 8:06PM

Surveys will decide fate of rural NH post offices


While there are several other post offices within driving distance of Union, many local residents rely on the location to receive their mail and stay connected with the community within the small village along Route 125 in Wakefield. (JOHN QUINN PHOTO)

MIDDLETON — As part of a nationwide plan to cut costs, residents will have a say in realigning the hours of the Union Post Office, which serves as a conduit for the town.

Using a mail survey, residents in Middleton and Union can choose between changing the hours or conducting a discontinuance survey of the Union office, at 402 Main St. (Route 125).

If more than 60 percent of respondents choose the survey, residents have a further option to switch to roadside delivery or relocate their post office boxes to a nearby post office.

The surveys, which were sent out June 11, must be returned by July 10 to the Union Post Office.

Members of the U.S. Postal Service have scheduled a meeting to share the results of the survey, hear from residents and explain options. The meeting will be held at the Union Post Office July 24 at 4:30 p.m.

Union residents Sandy Pratt and Adele Garvin, who both live within walking distance of the post office, said they both want the location to remain open.

"I hope a lot of people fill out their surveys," Pratt said, adding she expects to see quite a few residents at the meeting about the changes later this month.

Pratt said many residents in the small village of Union prefer to receive mail at the post office, which also serves as a place for people to ask for directions or gather community news.

Garvin said many older residents, especially those who walk to the post office, would be hard-pressed to travel to another location, even though there are other post offices in Sanbornville and Milton, which are both about five miles away.

"In a rural area, you really need these post offices," Garvin said, adding there are some things you can only do at a post office.

The Postal Service is reviewing the use of 13,000 rural post offices across the country after the public overwhelmingly was opposed to a proposal to close 3,500 locations, according to Tom Rizzo, spokesman for the Postal Service in New Hampshire and Maine.

"The Post Plan was designed to avoid closures," Rizzo said, adding most people understand that the mail is no longer the primary carrier of information.

As a result, Rizzo said officials proposed to reduce hours of certain rural locations to reflect actual usage.

"This has been an ongoing process," Rizzo said, adding officials collected information about the majority of affected post offices earlier in the year.

"In most cases, we were able to adapt well to the wishes of the community," Rizzo said, adding while the level of interest varied across the nation, it was clear people were against closing local post offices.

Officials decided they must take action as the Postal Service is undergoing "a huge financial crisis," as it is losing about $25 million a day, according to spokeswoman Christine Dugas.

Dugas said it's important for residents to respond to the survey to allow officials to determine usage. She added the Postal Service offers many services online, including the ability to ship packages and letters from home.

"There are certainly a lot of options people can use," Dugas said.

Dugas said the results from the survey and the information gathered during the meeting will be combined into a report. She added the information will help make decisions on a regional and national level.

"The process can take a couple months to a few months," Dugas said, adding the decision will be posted in the lobby of the affected post office for a month and implemented about 30 to 60 days later.
The post offices in Milton Mills, East Wakefield and in Acton, Maine, are also being reviewed as part of the plan.For more information or to view a complete list of affected locations, visit: http://about.usps.com/news/electronic-press-kits/our-future-network/post-plan/welcome.htm.

jquinn@newstote.com


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