NEW SHARON — After hearing a plan to reduce morning hours at the New Sharon post office, residents at a sparsely attended public hearing said they were concerned the plan might not fit with the town’s habits or be feasible for employees.

In a response to a survey of town residents, the U.S. Postal Service proposed reducing service to six hours per weekday — 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday — and keeping hours at 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday.

“And the reality is people are just not going to work those hours,” resident Mercy Hanson said.

However, the five residents gathered Tuesday night at the post office to hear the proposal said the post office is busier from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. than from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The meeting was part of a two-year national Postal Service plan to combat declining revenue. Residents in communities facing cuts were given mail surveys to fill out about what they would like to see done in response to the financial problems: cut back hours, use a neighboring post office or consider a village post office located within a store in town. In Maine, meetings like the one in New Sharon are expected to wrap up by the end of August.

In New Vineyard, a similar meeting to go over survey results and talk about proposed changes Tuesday was canceled after the moderator confused the schedule, and it was rescheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday. The handful of residents who showed up expecting the meeting told a New Vineyard postal worker they probably would not be able to attend the next day’s meeting.

Since 2007, mail volume has declined nationally 25 percent, falling from 212,234 million pieces annually to 158,384 million pieces in 2013.

“Email and e-bills and not as many personal letters has contributed a lot to that,” said Skowhegan Post Master Bill Sylvain, who moderated the public meeting in New Sharon.

Sylvain said out of the 683 survey forms sent to New Sharon residents, 226 were returned, with 193 supporting reduced hours.

Hanson told Sylvain she would prefer to see Saturday mail hours cut and more morning hours during the week.

Tamara Morgan, a former postal worker in New Sharon, said while the residents might adjust to the proposed hours, the post office will have a hard time finding workers willing to work those shifts with four hour gaps in between.

The New Sharon post office has two full-time employees and one part-time employee and serves one route that winds for about 100 miles.

“The community will adapt, but it’s hard on the employees,” said Morgan, now the officer in charge at the Livermore Falls post office.

Morgan said along with the challenge to the employees, New Sharon residents primarily use the post office in the morning and rarely stop there after 4 p.m. She said condensing the hours to earlier in the day not only would help employees, but also probably would be better received by residents.

Sylvain said he would pass on all the comments to the postal service leadership, which would make a decision.

“That’s why we do these meetings, to get community input,” he said.

He said any change in the hours wouldn’t take effect for at least 30 days and probably closer to 45 days. He said the hours can’t go into effect until 30 days after a notice of hour changes is publicly posted.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

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