NEW VINEYARD — In the next two months, New Vineyard residents will see weekday business hours at the town’s post office cut in half.

The New Vineyard post office and other small post offices across the country are announcing cuts in an effort to stem the financial bleeding caused by a $10 billion revenue decline at the U.S. Postal Service since 2007 caused by a decrease in paper mail and an increase in electronic bill payment systems and the use of email.

Doug Fletcher, one of three residents who attended the meeting Wednesday at the New Vineyard post office, said he thought the changes were the best alternative to closing that could be presented.

“I think it’s a good compromise, as far as our situation is concerned,” he said. “It’s just like a business. You can only take losses like that for so long.”

Fletcher said as one of the owners of Maine Wood Concepts, an employer of 109 workers in New Vineyard, he considers the post office to be an important part of his business, though he uses other delivery services for packages.

Farmington Postmaster Sue Jones, who attended the meeting, said she would be happy to meet with Fletcher to see if using the postal service for packaging could save him money compared to commercial services.

After the brief meeting, resident Don Kenney said he worried that the U.S. Postal Service was planning to close New Vineyard’s small post office branch and was thankful it was only getting its hours cut.

“It was better than I thought it would be, to be honest,” he said.

The office hours in New Vineyard will be cut to 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday while keeping the current Saturday hours of 7 to 11:30 a.m. Residents still will have access to post office boxes while the counters are closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. but won’t be able to order stamps or use any of the other retail window services.

The meeting was part of the result of a two-year national Postal Service effort 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.

In a survey of 359 New Vineyard residents, 114 responded and 105 said they preferred to reduce the hours at the office to alleviate the financial problem.

Other options that received a few votes included just having a carrier run a postal route but closing the office, having a village post office inside a town store, and closing the post office and using another that’s nearby.

Since 2007, mail volume has declined nationally 25 percent, falling from 212,234 million pieces annually to 158,384 million pieces in 2013. The decline in mail has led to a $10 billion loss in revenue for the Postal Service with $7.8 billion of the loss attributable to first class mail alone.

“That’s why we’re doing a lot of these changes,” said Skowhegan Postmaster Bill Sylvain, who moderated the public meeting in New Vineyard.

Sylvain said e-bills and a decline in personal letters have played a significant role in the problem as well.

Sylvain said Postal Service managers have had no raises in three years and postmasters were being asked to take on additional work.

The decision to reduce hours at post offices such as New Vineyard, he said, was taken mostly because those particular post offices have experienced a decline in revenue that made their hours unsustainable.

“Some of the things we can do is cut the smaller offices. Even offices my size have had to make cuts,” he said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

 

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