Postal Service plans to end Saturday service

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, 14th District, and Councilwoman Helen Holton, 8th District, protest outside the Waverly Post Office in October 2011, in objection to eight proposed post office closings, affecting 36 percent of post offices in Baltimore City. Now, the Postal Service is planning to end Saturday service, starting in August. (Photo by Joe Soriero/The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Sun / February 6, 2013)

Lanny Gans had not heard, until she went to the Roland Park post office Wednesday, that the financially struggling U.S. Postal Service plans to end Saturday service in August, in an effort to save $2 billion a year..

"I hate to see anything like that going away," Gans said when a reporter told her of the plan as she left the post office at Roland Avenue and Deepdene Road. "It's more employees that are going to be laid off. And mail service is already slow as it is."

But Bonny Gothier, of Homeland, had a different reaction. She said she doubted that dropping Saturday service, except for packages, would be a hardship for the public, "in these days of technology."

"There's so much being done by email," Gothier said. And besides, if she couldn't get mail on Saturday, "I'd just wait 'til Monday."


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Minnie Smoot, of Cross Keys, was somewhere in the middle, resigned to a changing world

"I like my post office," said Smoot, a senior citizen. "But I know it was inevitable."

The closing of post offices on Saturdays would be another reduction in services and hours of operation for post offices around north Baltimore. The Roland Park post office since October 2010 has limited its hours on weekdays to 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3:15-5 p.m. Saturdays.

Similar hours are in effect for the Hampden post office, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:15-5 p.m. on weekdays. And in Mount Washington, the post office on Cottonworth Avenue (opposite the Meadowbrook pool) is not longer a business mail entry unit, meaning all business mailings must be taken to the main Baltimore post office downtown.

The same mixed reaction to ending Saturday service was found at the Mount Washington post office.

"I'm not so crazy about it," said Doc Hersperger, of Rolden on the border of Hampden and Roland Park. "I don't do much on the computer."

"I think it's good," said dentist Dr. Robert Fleishman, of Mount Washington. "They need to save money."

But Julie Wheeler, of Roland Park, feared long-term repercussions.

"I'm not surprised," she said. "I wonder what it portends."

This is not the first time that the U.S. Postal Service has proposed draconian measures to save money. In October 2011, City Council member Mary Pat Clarke was so angry about a proposal to close the post office in Waverly that she held a press conference there and publicly derided the plan, shouting, "Return to sender."

At the time, the U.S. Postal Service was recommending closing 3,700 post offices nationwide — including 41 in Maryland and eight in Baltimore — and laying off 120,000 workers in the face of an $8 billion budget shortfall.

The rise of email and online banking has hurt postal revenues and a 2006 law that requires massive prepayments for future retiree benefits has left the Postal Service short of cash.

Clarke said Wednesday that the Postal Service should not be cutting Saturday service to save money.

"I think that's a big mistake," she said. She said Congress should allow the Postal Service to prefund pensions on a national schedule "and use some of that surplus to get healthy."

U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in a statement, "The Postal Service's declining mail volume poses a significant challenge and the enactment of comprehensive postal reform legislation must be an urgent priority for the current Congress. However, the issue of service delivery frequency should be addressed in that legislation rather than through arbitrary action by the Postal Service."

Cummings represents parts of north Baltimore, including Guilford and Oakenshawe, whore residents use the Waverly post office.

Cummings said the U.S. Senate passed a bill he introduced to make the Postal Service more profitable through expanded innovation, operational flexibility, workforce realignment and regulatory relief, but that the House has not taken up any comprehensive reform legislation, including his bill, S. 1789.

The Baltimore Sun contributed to this story.