In a time when the U.S. Postal Service is bleeding money, the tiny facility in Green Mountain Falls has escaped the ax. “The people at the headquarters in Washington D.C. did an about-face about a year and a half ago,” said John Munoz, manager of post-office operations.
Speaking to about 15 residents in Green Mountain Falls March 12, Munoz assured the group that the post office would remain open but with hours reduced from eight to six. “Going down to six hours says a lot about the people who work here,” he said. “They've been able to generate revenue, which is why the hours were only diminished by two.”
The reduced hours, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with a half-hour for lunch at noon, will begin the week of April 21. The specific hours are the result of a survey of Green Mountain Falls' postal customers.
While just 35 percent of 569 customers responded to the survey, 93 percent of respondents voted for the “realignment” of hours. Three people requested home delivery. “The return rate wasn't very good,” Munoz said. “That's where the community had a voice to talk about what was going to happen to their post office.”
While it's generally known that the post office is in financial trouble, Munoz emphasized the reasons behind the downhill slope. “The economy took a hit and businesses stopped mailing,” he said. “For instance, you can get catalogues on the Internet now.”
Not only did the economy tank but the busiest day of the year for the post office is now a ho-hum affair on April 15. “Now people hit `e-file' for their taxes,” Munoz said.
While usage is down, the postal service has maxed out its $15 billion line of credit with the federal government, he said. “There are things we can do, along with some changes we need to get from Congress, so that we can have a presence in every community just like the Constitution says,” Munoz said.
The real kicker in the potential demise of the post office, however, is the legislation enacted by Congress in 2006 that gives retirement benefits to current as well as future employees. “We have to pay for retirement and health benefits for employees who haven't been born yet,” Munoz said. “We are the only organization, public and private, that is required to fund these types of benefits.”
Two years ago, the post office gave up on the retirement-reserve fund, despite the 10-year window granted by Congress. “It wasn't a bad idea until the economy bailed on us and we were unable to generate enough revenue,” he said. “We have actually reneged on the last two years of that $5 billion payment.”
To counteract the benefits' mandate, in addition to adapting to the evolution of America's mailing habits, the postal service will cease Saturday delivery of letters and flat mail Aug. 5.
Because postal customers, particularly those who live in rural areas, depend on the mail for medicine, the service will continue package delivery on Saturday, Munoz said. “That was one of the biggest sticking points in getting rid of Saturday delivery,” he said. “Post offices will still be open on Saturdays and P.O. Box customers will still get their mail six days a week. I think it's a viable solution; I'm glad we got away from widespread closure of post offices.”
In addition to Green Mountain Falls, post offices in Victor, Guffey and Lake George will also have reduced hours. But there is no change for post offices in Manitou Springs, Cascade, Woodland Park, Divide, Florissant and Cripple Creek.