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Harford's post offices appear safe from USPS closing study

Harford County's 21 local post offices have apparently dodged the bullet in the latest round of reviews and potential closings of post offices around the country announced recently by the U.S. Postal Service.

Though Harford is home to a few small, almost hyper-local stations serving its 440 square miles, none of them appear to even be on the radar of the bean counters at the USPS.

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Not so some other post offices in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C, areas, which the USPS lumps into its Capital Region.

Between a shaky economy and a dwindling need to send or receive things by "snail mail," the future of the U.S. Postal Service has never been more uncertain.

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Bills are paid online, correspondence is sent digitally or by text message and online purchases can be picked up at retail stores. Mail service seems to be going to the way of rotary phones and the Pony Express, and no one is more aware of this trend than the postal service itself.

In an attempt to financially get its head above water, the postal service announced in late July it would be reviewing nearly 3,700 post offices nationwide for possible closure. Forty-one of these locations are in Maryland, and 10 of those are in the Baltimore-metropolitan area. Surprisingly, no Harford County post offices are in the mix — at least for now.

"The Postal Service is in a dire financial predicament. Despite aggressive cost reduction initiatives, we're expected to lose more than $8 billion this year," Yvette Singh, communications coordinator for the Postal Service's Baltimore District, wrote in an e-mail.

Harford County is part of the Baltimore district, which includes all communities that have ZIP codes beginning 210 to 219. It is this year-on-year operating loss that prompted the recent study of possible office closures, as "the postal service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations," Singh wrote.

In the short term, no post offices listed are to be shut down; they're merely being evaluated, Singh wrote. Some of the branches in question are already open for "limited hours" during the day because of a lack of customer demand, she noted.

"The Postal Service is only studying certain post offices, stations and branches. No decision has been made to close any post office," Singh added. Any decision to close a branch will only be made after "community input has been received" at various town meetings.

What put those 41 Maryland locations up for review — and how Harford County dodged the bullet — is attributed to several criteria, including a particular location's "proximity to other post offices, stations and branches or to non-postal service facilities — such as grocery stores — that sell stamps and other postal products and services," Singh said.

Customer demand, an insufficient workload for employees, not enough revenue and the office's expenses are other points considered.

"The reason post offices in Harford County aren't under review," Singh wrote, "is because they didn't meet the criteria listed."

While post offices in Harford are safe for the time being, nothing is set in stone. Very much aware of this reality is Lori McCracken, postmaster at the Havre de Grace Post Office.

"Things change all the time," McCracken said when asked why she couldn't give comment on Harford County post offices not being under review. "I don't want to speculate on things I'm not privy to," she said, adding that nothing is ever concrete.

When several other postmasters throughout the county were contacted, none were able to comment due to being instructed by their supervisors to relay all media inquiries to consumer affairs.

If any branches are to close after being reviewed, Singh wrote, "residents and business will be given 560 days notice of any action so they can prepare."

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