Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor budget crisis will close rural post offices.
Residents of Slidell and Greenwood received good news in the mail Wednesday when the U.S. Postal Service announced it was not going to close thousands of rural post offices across the nation.
The Slidell and Greenwood offices were among those slated for closure in an effort to save the USPS billions of dollars per year. Residents and longtime users of those post offices voiced their anger and concern about the potential closings during community meetings held in the fall of last year.
“We found out it’s important to rural residents to keep their local post office to keep their ZIP codes and for community identity,” said Sam Bollen, a spokesperson for USPS. “The Postmaster General said on Wednesday that he listened to the customers when making this decision.”
Those were some of the same concerns voiced at community meetings in Greenwood and Slidell last year.
In lieu of closing, the window of time when people can use the post office will narrow. Slidell and Greenwood will both cut back to two hours per day starting in September 2014.
Bollen said USPS will probably hold more community meetings and conduct surveys to determine what those new hours of operation will be.
“All of our customers are relieved,” said Greenwood Postmaster Rose Parker. “We have a lot of elderly customers and farmers who don’t want to have to drive to Decatur. We have one gentleman who is 72 and has had the same address for 50 years. He didn’t want to lose his address after all those years.”
Next door to the Greenwood Post Office, one can hear the soft tapping of dominoes as they plop down on a slick table and slide into place. A group of gentlemen gather on a regular basis to play in the fire hall where they discuss everything from politics to the post office. A breeze drifted in the wide-open door, delivering the searing aroma of hamburgers being grilled at the Greenwood Grocery next door.
“We’ve had a post office here for 150 years; there was no reason for them to shut us down,” said Bill Maxwell, of Greenwood, between his turns at the table Thursday afternoon.
The plan to curtail hours will save the USPS approximately half-a-billion dollars per year.
Down the road at Slidell, Postmaster Brenda Miller said performing all her duties in just two hours a day will prove difficult.
“A lot of people think we just sell stamps and put out the mail,” Miller said. “But that’s the no-brainer stuff. We have to do a lot more than that. There is a lot of computer work that also has to be done.”
The Slidell office processes more than 340 pieces of incoming mail on a daily basis and has 156 P.O. boxes. The Greenwood office has 182 boxes.