Keeping it open

SHERIDAN – After several weeks of uncertainty, the post office on Route 20 in the town of Sheridan will continue to remain open, but will reduce its hours for window service.

About 40 residents attended a meeting in the community center Tuesday evening to hear what the future will hold for their post office. Western New York District Post Plan Coordinator Norbert “Norb” Rzeszutek was on hand to explain that future and why the post office could have potentially closed.

“The Postal Service, like many businesses today, is facing serious financial challenges,” he said. “It is not tax-supported and all money needed to collect, transport and deliver our mail comes directly out of the sales of stamps and postal products. People are doing more things online. Many of these transactions, and social interactions, used to be conducted through the mail, meaning fewer stamps are bought and that much less postage is being paid (for revenues).”

“We need to make the necessary changes to make more efficient use of our facilities and our people,” he added. “This must be done to ensure, to the best we can, a secure, stable Postal Service, now and into the future.”

Sheridan’s post office was one of many small, rural post offices slated for either closure or reduced window service. After the results of a survey disbursed to 137 Sheridan customers were reviewed, Rzeszutek said, it was deemed in the best interests of the community to reduce window service from eight hours of every weekday to four hours.

“The reduction of hours is due to the decline in mail volume, the workload and revenue, for the existing staff,” Rzeszutek said.

“It keeps the post office open,” Chautauqua County Legislator-elect Terry Niebel (R-Sheridan) said, referring to the reduction of hours. “For a lot of small communities like Sheridan, the post office is a focal point for them. Even though it’s reduced hours, I’m glad that it’s continuing to be open and I think that’s a real benefit for the community.”

Out of 68 surveys returned, 36 of them (53 percent) expressed the realignment of hours as a better option than overall closure of the facility. Closure options included expanding rural delivery routes, establishing a village post office inside a separate establishment, or merging with a nearby post office.

The 137 surveys were disbursed about five weeks ago.

The new hours of window service at the post office will most likely be from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Rzeszutek explained. The time slot of 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday will also continue. Hours will be finalized at least 30 days prior to the new schedule. Access to delivery receptacles will not change, as a result.

“With this process, we won’t do anything in this facility until Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, at the earliest,” Rzeszutek said, adding that hours may continue to be slashed after then if the post office’s revenue from stamps continues to decline.

“I suggest everyone buy books of stamps for Christmas presents,” Sheridan resident Lorraine Bailey told the audience.

The rural post office initiative, called the Post Plan, came about from community meetings in small municipalities across the nation, where people expressed their interest in keeping their local post offices.

“That’s where the Postal Service needed to continue to move because of our losses, and they came up with this Post Plan itself, the actual reduction of work hours, hours of operation, to match the actual work hours in the office,” Rzeszutek said.

According to the United States Postal Service website, “The Post Plan is designed to make sure America’s communities continue to have access to our products and services as we right-size our post office network to reflect the nation’s current use of our services. Listening to our customers and gathering their input via public meetings and surveys is a critical part of the plan.”

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