MOUNT VERNON — Reports of post office closings have been making the news lately, but there will be none closed in Knox County. The closest possible closing will probably be in Mansfield and several are being looked at in Columbus. However, nothing is written in stone quite yet.
“This is a story that has grown legs of its own,” said Victor Dubina, corporate spokesman for the United States Postal Service. “The list that had been put out was just for stations and branches of post offices in major metropolitan areas. The nearest to Mount Vernon is probably a toss-up between Mansfield and Columbus. Columbus has three stations and branches we are reviewing, and up in Mansfield we are reviewing three also.”
Stations and branches are part of a larger post office. Dubina gave the example of Cleveland, where he is based. The Cleveland Post Office is made up of 53 stations and branches, all of which are in Cuyahoga County.
“So we have a whole lot of retail outlets in a compressed area,” Dubina explained. “And that’s what we are looking at. Mount Vernon, for example, is a post office unto itself and headed by a postmaster with no stations or branches reporting to it. So it falls under a different set of regulatory requirements.”
Dubina said that in Ohio, postal officials are looking at closings only in the major cities. These include Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, Mansfield, Canton Youngstown and Dayton.
“The way the stories in the press ran, it made it look like post offices all over the place were closing,” Dubina said. “What is changing is how people are using us. Mail volumes have been disappearing, for lack of a better description.”
Dubina said the post office hasn’t seen mail volumes like the current ones since the early 1960s.
Dubina referred to a recent Government Accounting Office report on the state of finances for the USPS.
In a report made to Congress on Aug. 6. it stated in part:
“The U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) financial condition has worsened since GAO testified before this subcommittee last January, with the recession and changing mail use causing dramatic declines in mail volume and revenues despite postal rate increases.
“Mail use has been changing over the past decade as businesses and consumers have moved to electronic communication and payment alternatives. Mail volume peaked in 2006, and USPS expects that much of the lost volume will not return after the recession is over.
“USPS has not been able to cut costs fast enough to offset the accelerated decline in mail volume and revenue. Thus, GAO added USPS’s financial condition to the High-Risk List in July 2009.”
Text messaging and online bill paying are leading the way in taking business away from the USPS. But it’s not just young people who are turning to these alternate ways of communicating and paying. The phenomena is also creeping into the lives of older Americans.
“A recent study that I saw, said the fastest growing [age] demographic for online usage is the late 60s to early 70s,” said Dubina.
Postal officials are looking into a number of ways to increase revenue, including at least one program for its shipping division, which, unlike its mail division, can charge whatever the market will bear. This is the flat-fee priority mail shipping boxes. This is being promoted mainly to business, especially small business with no demanding shipping needs.
“Even though it’s a tough economy out there, we’ve been seeing ourselves making some inroads in flat-rate boxes,” Dubina said. “When the economy comes back, my guess we will get a bigger chunk of the marketplace.”