MONMOUTH — The North Monmouth post office will remain open, but at drastically reduced hours.

That came as a bittersweet relief to the roughly 10 residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the branch’s future. The office had been considered a candidate for closure, but a recent survey found that an overwhelming majority of North Monmouth residents favored keeping it open at drastically reduced hours.

The final decision will be posted in the office by next Tuesday. The new hours are expected to go into effect by the end of January 2015.

“You get used to it,” said Town Manager Curtis Lunt, whose hometown post office in Lisbon Falls scaled back its hours a few years ago. “It’s a lot better than closing period.”

The North Monmouth office is one of more than a half dozen rural post offices in central Maine that will host meetings over the next two weeks aimed at determining when they will be open for retail business. The initiative is part of the U.S. Postal Service’s nationwide effort to reduce costs.

The planned changes have been part of a review process called Post Plan, which reduces window hours at rural post offices as an alternative to closing them altogether. The postal service published a list in May 2012 of about 13,000 post offices, more than 400 of which are in Maine, that would be affected. The process is supposed to be completed by September. Most of the post offices will be open four or six hours per day, but some will have their hours reduced to two per day.

The post office has sent surveys seeking direction from residents in affected communities. The survey gives residents several options, including closing the post office altogether, establishing a service center within an existing local business or switching to home delivery. In North Monmouth, the overwhelming majority — 79 percent of the 131 residents who responded — favored keeping the post office open at reduced hours.

“The majority of people opted to realign the hours,” said meeting facilitator Lori Boudin, a postmaster in Bath.

Boudin said most of those who favored reduced hours preferred weekday hours from 7 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday hours will remain the same, from 7:30 to 11:15 a.m. Residents with post office boxes will be able to collect their mail 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

“I think morning and afternoons is a fair compromise,” North Monmouth resident Sue Kelley said.

Postmaster Sheila Sanford, who has worked at the post office for 30 of the 57 years it has existed, has announced her plans to retire because of the cutback. Residents at Tuesday’s meeting voiced their disappointment about Sanford’s departure and even urged her to come out of retirement to continue to work under the new schedule. Boudin said that decision would be up to Sanford.

“I’m sure to many of you, she’s like a member of your family,” Boudin said. “It really is a loss.”

Pauline McDougald, a lifelong North Monmouth resident, said she has watched the village be depleted of resources throughout her life. The post office remains one of the few mainstays.

“I’m 85 years old and I’ve come to this post office all my life,” McDougald said. “It just doesn’t seem fair that no matter what, North Monmouth gets the boot.”

Boudin said the Postal Service will review the North Monmouth office’s numbers every year to determine whether it is open for the appropriate number of hours and during the appropriate hours of the day. Boudin said it was important to select the four hours that would give the office the best chance to succeed financially so that additional cuts will not be required.

“It’s important we get the right hours,” she said. “The bottom line is, the way to keep your local post offices is to use them.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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