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Potter: Post Office Closures Small Piece of the Pie

By Ed O'Keefe

Postmaster General John E. Potter at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday.

The U.S. Postal Service lost billions of dollars in revenue during the last fiscal year while mail volume plunged. Lawmakers may one day soon consider cutting mail delivery to five days per week. They may also need to sort out how the Postal Service pays for the benefits of current and future retirees.

But most customers only care about one thing: The fate of their neighborhood post office.

Concerned folks could learn as soon as Friday about the hundreds of sites considered for possible closure or consolidation, because the Postal Service must turn over an updated list of sites to the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Despite the concern and confusion generated by the drawn out process, Postmaster General John E. Potter thinks customers should worry about other aspects of the mail service.

“This is part of the problem when it comes to discussing the Postal Service,” he told a lunchtime crowd at the National Press Club in Washington. “Because here we are talking about a $5 billion ongoing deficit and we're all wrapped up in an issue that's probably worth on the order of $20 million to $100 million at best.”

Closures account for one small piece of Potter's grand plans to remake the American mail system. He's advocated for reducing mail delivery to five days, for a smaller workforce and greener fleet of vehicles -- and maybe, just maybe the chance to sell something other than stamps.

“Given the changing use of the mail by the American public -- we're not faulting anyone -- and given what's going on with the economy, we need more flexibility to manage this place so that we can get into the black,” Potter said.

He's not involved in the details of possible closures, but Potter said it's unlikely any facility will close before January. He's delegated the the other dirty details to district managers and other Washington-based officials.

“Our folks have reached out to communities and will continue to do that, but keep in mind that we're facing a significant gap going forward of $5 billion. So people cannot expect business as usual and that we will be able to fund everything that we currently do,” he said.

Potter wants every American to start talking about how the Postal Service will exist into the next decade and beyond. Americans will have to consider mail volume, the frequency of delivery, and the cost, he said. Oh, and then there's the matter of the remaining postal facilities.

The Postal Service operates more retail outlets than Starbucks, Wal-Mart and McDonalds combined, Potter said.

“And we can only sell stamps,” he lamented. “I think we're going to have to rationalize. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that we're not going to sell the same number of stamps going forward.”

So if Congress told him next week that he could try selling just one service or product, what would it be?

“I'd be a bank,” he said, but later admitted, “that's not going to happen.”

Why not?

“Politics,” he said.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 8, 2009; 5:45 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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When is the post office going to stop taking passport photos. You are just killing a viable industry. Keep your nose out of other peoples business. Deliver the mail faster and people will come. Get a clue.

Posted by: joedhar2 | October 9, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

It is a bad day for America . The U.S.Postal Service is wanting to close post offices around the nation because it is losing big bucks, why you ask, well if some of the big wigs would cut their pay by half and only retain the PMG and maybe just keep one or two of his not needed help and give up the millions spent on advertising Priority Mail on Prime Time plus become more efficient as it was decades ago, be more people friendly, stop pushing its employees to hurry on the delivery, begin investing on in office training with window clerks, distribution clerks, better Supervisors, (204-Bs supervisor reliefs) pay more attention to EEO"s, grievances, personnel matters, give praise to employees for doing a good job,come rain snow and whatever the elements bring upon the mail-carriers, this would not be happening today. There are Postmasters,District Managers and Regional Managers who don't care who they hurt or damn, they lie ,they harass, they blame others because it is a known fact that nobody ever believes the employees, they are always wrong. Be smart and listen ,hear and look at what is going on around the big pushers tables around this Great Country of Ours.
thank you,


Posted by: madbadrabiddog1 | October 9, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Congress saddled the Postal Service with billions in unnecessary expenses. That should be changed.

Posted by: jbowen431 | October 10, 2009 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Letting the Post Office do some more banking functions is not a big stretch from the old Postal Money Orders. It would be a convenience for customers, and raise revenue to keep the other essential services going - especially in rural towns.
The Sveriges Post does. [Sweden]

Posted by: EirikThorvaldsson | October 10, 2009 4:05 AM | Report abuse

AS a retired Postal Worker with thirty two and a half years service, I'm appalled at the Congress for not aiding the U.S,P.S. with a bailout. They did it for the corrupt banks and insurance companies. They also cannot come up with an answer as to what happened to the billions of dollars in bailout money that dis-appeared. Maybe they should find these billions and turn it over to the Postal Service. There are more people using the Postal Service than the banks and insurance companies. As far as giving the service the right to banking priveleges, why not? We had it before and it was taken away by the Politicos, and I might add, it was totally up front and honest. No one lost any funds and it wasn't operated by a bunch of crooks as were the banks and insurance companies that received bailout money. So, if any of you honest congressmen, if there are any, are reading my comment, take heed, you can be replaced.

Posted by: rkopnisky | October 10, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

the problem you have is with some of it's employees, like WILLIAM FAIR, who thinks he's the mack at the Gaitherburg site. He craps where he works, causing kaos among the females there. Then he threatens them if they tell he will get them fired! What a great guy!

Posted by: patrings | October 12, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

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