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Posted at 2:27 PM ET, 01/24/2011

Postal Service to close 2,000 sites in next two years

By Ed O'Keefe
Patrick R. Donahoe
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe.

The U.S. Postal Service plans to save as much as $500 million in the next two years as it works to close or consolidate about 2,000 mostly small, rural and rarely visited retail locations, according to senior postal officials. Another 500 sites are slated to close by June.

After years of using a confusing and laborious 21-month process panned by customers and Congress as too secretive and inconsistent, the mail agency is now relying on a computerized system that allows officials to review and determine a location's fate in no more than five months. If the plans succeed, the mail agency could halve its overall infrastructure by 2020, officials said.

In a recent interview, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said the changes will help save millions of dollars.

"We have post offices out there that we have two customers, or three customers come in in an entire day," Donahoe said. "Remember the Maytag repairman? He used to have the loneliest job in the world. We probably have about 5,000 postmasters that have the loneliest job in the world."

Federal law prohibits USPS from closing traditional post offices -- where most mail processing occurs -- for economic reasons, so Donahoe is targeting about 2,000 postal stations and branches -- smaller, mostly leased sites, often in skyscrapers or shopping plazas that don't employ letter carriers.

"It is not our intention to take access away from the American public," Donahoe said Friday, noting that the changes reflect shifting customer habits.

Sales of postage stamps and Priority Mail boxes at sites other than the nation's 36,000 postal locations soared from 8 percent in 2000 to 35 percent last year, he said. Traffic to the postal Web site, USPS.com, also continues to grow.

The 500 sites closing by June include about 400 locations that suspended operations due to weather or fire damage, environmental concerns or a lack of business. Most of the sites haven't been operational in about a year, but some haven't operated in almost three decades, said Dean Granholm, vice president of delivery and post office operations.

The other 100 branches and stations were first considered as part of a 2009 review that earned wide criticism. A list with thousands of sites considered for closure was prematurely shared with lawmakers, who distributed it to reporters. Caught by surprise, the Postal Service spent weeks defending the need to close post offices, causing confusion for customers and postal workers.

The incident compelled officials to establish the computerized process they began using in November, Granholm said. He's meeting regularly with colleagues to review potential sites, starting with small, rural stations in communities such as Mahaska, Kan., and Barium Springs, N.C.

With a few clicks of his mouse, Granholm can pull up fact sheets detailing a location's square footage, hours of operation, payroll, annual sales and maps showing the next-closest location. If an unprofitable site employs fewer than five people, is open fewer than eight hours a day and is within 15 to 20 miles of another, larger location, it's likely to close.

"We're not the only ones going through this trend," Granholm said. "All sorts of retailers are trying to find ways to do this."

The small town will get to keep its ZIP code and letter carriers will still deliver the mail six days a week. Some may also carry stamps to sell to customers along their routes.

All levels of the Postal Service bureaucracy -- from the public affairs shop to union leaders -- are aware of the process and are informed along the way, Granholm said.

But even as some branches move into nearby retailers, others will close completely, forcing customers in mostly small, rural towns to drive up to 20 miles to find the next-closest site.

Customer reaction will be an early test of the plan. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll from last March, 64 percent of Americans opposed closing post offices, including their local branch. But if few customers protest as the closings begin, aides said Donahoe is expected to aggressively push Congress to repeal the law prohibiting the closure of unprofitable post offices.

With at least $7 billion in losses expected during the fiscal year that ends in September, "It's better for us to make the tough decisions now then to have somebody else make the decision later on," Donahoe said.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 24, 2011; 2:27 PM ET
Categories:  Postal Service  
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Comments

In addition to closing unprofitable Post Offices, cut mail delivery back to 5 days and then 4 days per week. So much is moving to the web that what the PO is delivering is 2nd to 4th class mail (no urgency).

Michael Saffell

Posted by: mdsaffell | January 24, 2011 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I normally have to use an extemely busy downtown post office in Wash., D.C. I try and use their automated center as much as possible. They are only open 9 to 5. I used to be able to get in at 8:30 but then they cut back. I work 9 to 5. If I want to use some service that needs a real 'clerk' there are 20 to 25 customers ahead of me at lunch hour. Last time there was only ONE clerk on duty; ridiculous.

Posted by: swissmiss150 | January 24, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

This is a change that is long overdue.

And it's a very fair change. There is no reason that people in remote, rural communities should be subsidized by people who live in cities.

Posted by: postisarag | January 24, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

In stead of closing post offices spaced 15-20 miles apart, why not consider closing repetitive stations only a mile or two apart. An example, might be one of the three offices in Montgomery Village (on Stedwick), Germantown (on Wisteria) and Gaithersburg (on Shady Grove). The impact would be more significant (each with high density) but the alternative for any patron is much less. I, for one, can drive to each with little effort and time and would not be inconvenienced if one was off my list.

Posted by: areader21 | January 24, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I think closing some offices is a good idea. I understand it will be an inconvenience for some, but it will be better for all of us in the long run. I also think stopping the Saturday deliveries would be fine.

Posted by: CTwildheart | January 24, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

The USPS is used to deliver far more than 2nd and 4th class mail, unless you call paychecks 2nd class mail. Not everyone has direct deposit for paychecks.

Its time the government allows the USPS to allow advertising on stamps and their trucks to offset costs. They should also have envelopes with advertsing on them to generate yet more income.

Posted by: seanfergusson | January 24, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

This marks the end of rural America and the victory for urbanization. I have five post offices within two miles of where I live in Arlington Va., and none of them are busy. One of them is in a Rosslyn highrise and has stairs at the entranceway, making it impossible for use by people in wheelchairs. A second on Wilson Blvd near Courthouse has very limited parking and is never filled. I went in to get a federal tax form, and was told they no longer do that.
But in rural areas, there is only one post office serving areas miles around. It is their only one, and they need to fight to keep it. Why not just have one post office in the Northern Virginia region, say the one in Merrifield, and close the rest. Better yet, let's scrap the Postal Service monopoly and allow FedEx or UPS to get into delivering the mail. I don't want the newspapers and fliers, or the other subsidized mail.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | January 24, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Congress needs to recognize that the USPS is an important national asset as it is critical to providing some of the communications necessary to keep this vast land a single nation. Because it serves the national interest, it should not be expected to be self-supporting and deserves public funding.

Sure, there is less need to move physical objects thanks to the internet, but an email or e-card is no substitute for a handwritten letter or card. Many of us do not have UPS or FedEx service available at a reasonable price for delivery of parcels. We have far-flung territories, plus 2 remote states, that rely on USPS for ties to the mainland.

While there are almost certainly further savings that can be achieved by reducing unnecessary locations, particularly some of the branches in urban strip malls, but in rural areas post offices already are far between.

Posted by: sage5 | January 24, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

The govt. has some responsibility in maintaining rural post offices. However there are surely many that can be shut down without unduly inconveniencing patrons. I'd like to still maintain a PO system. But some hard choices will have to be made.

Posted by: rjma1 | January 24, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

In downtown Washington, and I suspect in most cities, there are numerous post offices, many within a few blocks of each other (20th and M, M between 18th and 19th, 17th and L, 14th and L, etc.). But almost all are only open weekdays between 9 and 5. Having fewer offices with longer hours would make a lot more business sense and would be more useful for customers. There is also no obvious reason why the automated postal centers, where you can buy stamps, buy postage for packages and deposit them, etc. must be inside post offices. These belong in every shopping mall. It might also make sense to replace stand-alone offices with rental spaces in supermarkets etc., which seems to be working well for several banks. And why would federal law prohibit closing money-losing offices, except to preserve a congressional perk? Several countries, including Japan, have completely privatized their postal services in recent years, and the public has benefited from improved services.

Posted by: none12 | January 24, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

\The biggest problem for USPS is the legislation governing postal services has not kept up with changes in the business environment.

USPS really just makes money on first class mail while the volumes are dropping dramatically - clearly creating a need for a different infrastructure.
But every lawmaker is opposed to changes in "their" district.

Don't shoot the postal service for failures that the lawmakers have created. (BTW - I am not a USPS employee - just a different perspective)

Posted by: jillandrune | January 24, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

The biggest problem for USPS is the legislation governing postal services has not kept up with changes in the business environment.

USPS really just makes money on first class mail while the volumes are dropping dramatically - clearly creating a need for a different infrastructure.
But every lawmaker is opposed to changes in "their" district.

Don't shoot the postal service for failures that the lawmakers have created. (BTW - I am not a USPS employee - just a different perspective)

Posted by: jillandrune | January 24, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

The postal service ought to do the following:
1. Get out of the 'package business' and turn the package business over to the pros like UPS and Fedex plus any others.
2. Reduce delivery to 3 days a week.
3. Close 'ALL' retail Post Offices. Let UPS and Fedex who already have retail stores act as the retail stores for USPS under contract.
4. That leaves USPS with collection of mail from contracted retail stores, sorting the mail, and delivery three (3) days a week.
Surely by cutting back to as outlined above, the Postal Service should be able to at least break even.

Posted by: scamba03 | January 24, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

The USPS is a "junked and defunct" segment of our government. I avoid it at all costs -- but I do have large scale mailings from time to time and am forced to put up with their ineptness and rudeness. I go to post offices in Arlington and in DC and OFTEN cannot even get the stamps I want. The lines are ridiculous and the workers make an effort to be slower when the post office is most busy. The workers are over paid and pompous and have forgotten what it is like to perform a service in the position of a "good government job"!!! I think we should close down the post office system completely and go to an automated system -- let the current workers find out how hard it is to find work with their skill set in todays climate!!!

Jeff Wilson
Washington, DC

Posted by: jeffrey_wilson | January 24, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

"plans to save as much as $500 million in the next two years as it works to close or consolidate about 2,000 mostly small, rural and rarely visited retail locations, according to senior postal officials. Another 500 sites are slated to close by June."

Doesn't take much to get the rubes fired up. $500 million ... 12 hours in Iraq!

Posted by: knjincvc | January 24, 2011 6:58 PM | Report abuse

jeffrey_wilson | January 24, 2011 6:25 PM
The USPS is a "junked and defunct" segment of our government. I avoid it at all costs -- but I do have large scale mailings from time to time and am forced to put up with their ineptness and rudeness. I go to post offices in Arlington and in DC and OFTEN cannot even get the stamps I want. The lines are ridiculous and the workers make an effort to be slower when the post office is most busy. The workers are over paid and pompous and have forgotten what it is like to perform a service in the position of a "good government job"!!! I think we should close down the post office system completely and go to an automated system -- let the current workers find out how hard it is to find work with their skill set in todays climate!!!"

Soo Jeffery, how much does a postal get paid?
How much are postal workers over paid?
Why aren't you buying stamps on-line?
But I guess you could use FedEx to mail your large scale mailings but you'd rather the rest of us subsidize large scale mailings for you.

Posted by: knjincvc | January 24, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Q- This is a change that is long overdue.

And it's a very fair change. There is no reason that people in remote, rural communities should be subsidized by people who live in cities.

Posted by: postisarag | January 24, 2011 3:39 PM |

Right, maybe the rural folks are tired of subsidizing Amtrak between Washington and NYC for all the crooks to ride to their overpaid jobs created by borrowing money for free and speculating with it.

Or maybe the simple rural folk are tired of bailing out NYC.

Or maybe those bumpkins are tired of seeing corporate lobbyists vying for legislated profits.

Yes, it must not be fair.

Grow up and become a citizen.

Posted by: wesatch | January 24, 2011 7:10 PM | Report abuse

It is very telling that in the face of the internet and the blame it has taken specific to the downturn in mail volumes that on this date(24 Jan. 11), the USPS.com site still has Jack Potter as the PMG. It is not hard to update the data and I am sure it is somebody's job, just encourage every employee to do their job...and then provide appropriate recognition...something the USPS has a hard time doing. Keep an eye on the smoke and mirrors the USPS is using...they claim to be cutting 2000 Postmaster positions in order to save money. Those positions will most likely be the 2000 rural Post Offices, Branches and Stations they are hell-bent on closing...Not one of which will be a PSEC employee earning the big bucks, but a lower level office where it is in reality a clerk who does it all! Plain Speak, Plain Actions, Plain Truth eaquals REAL PLAIN RESULTS. Glad I'm retired from today's USPS!

Posted by: TTB1056 | January 24, 2011 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Yes, by all means, "improve" efficiency by making it more inconvenient for customers to use the mail, and see if that will decrease or increase mail use and the Postal Service's deficit. Such "businesslike" approaches have been the Postal Service's problem for years, and have been a big cause of the current troubles. In a nutshell, postal service manglement (and I can spell management, but the results of postal service "management" are better described by "manglement") has made mailing so onerous, expensive, and unreliable, that one is crazy not to use competing methods which are customer friendly, quicker, and more reliable, for everything.

The problem is that nothing would replace the postal service in the rural, far suburban, and small towns.

Posted by: lericgoodman | January 24, 2011 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Unions
destroyed
USPS
and we continue
paying and paying
more and more
to
Unions
for less and
less!

Posted by: 2012frank | January 24, 2011 7:57 PM | Report abuse

With a scale & internet access there's less reason to go to the Post Office anymore. That especially given postal carriers will do pickups with their deliveries.

Posted by: Nymous | January 24, 2011 8:47 PM | Report abuse

With a scale & internet access there's less reason to go to the Post Office anymore. That especially given postal carriers will do pickups with their deliveries.

Posted by: Nymous | January 24, 2011 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Unions
destroyed
USPS
and we continue
paying and paying
more and more
to
Unions
for less and
less!

Posted by: 2012frank | January 24, 2011 7:57 PM

Hey Frank,
You are such a troll. How much should a postal worker earn?
Is a middle class wage to much for ya.
Cutting $500 million is peanuts when the U.S. spends more than that in Iraq in a few hours.

What's the matter, you can't find a government job.

Posted by: knjincvc | January 24, 2011 8:58 PM | Report abuse

I remember when one could go to a post office 24/7 and a) purchase stamps from a vending machine, b) weigh small packages/envelopes, c) determine correct postage from charts on the wall, and d) post packages of reasonable sizes.

For reasons that I cannot understand, almost all of these services have been stripped from almost every one of the 20+ post offices that I have visited in central/eastern North Carolina during the past year. It's painful to visit rural centers and see dilapidated and run down facilities. Few informational posters, if any, remain. All stamp machines and scales have been ripped out.

I know that the USPS is very proud of their wonderful APC machines that perform many of these functions and more with ease and the ability to use debit/credit cards. Unfortunately, I have only found APCs at two of the 20+ sites that I have visited in the past year. None in poor or rural locations.

This 'discrimination' mirrors that of banks, grocery, and retail stores that 'cannot' locate in urban/rural/poor areas of the country-- and yet sprout up on facing corners in almost every suburb and subdivision.

I guess the USPS faces the dilemma of reduced volume that results from reduced services and outlets.

I believe that if commercial rates were increased to reflect a greater share of their costs to serve, then the USPS would perform more profitably.

I also wish that they would print more of their 'Forever' stamps in post card and extra ounce denominations. That would blunt the effects of any future rate increases.

Does anyone remember twice daily deliveries?

Posted by: PhysicsDemos | January 24, 2011 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Unions
destroyed
USPS
and we continue
paying and paying
more and more
to
Unions
for less and
less!

Posted by: 2012frank
-------------------------------------------
It costs me $0.44 to send an envelope anywhere in USA in just two or three days. I'd wager your IQ is less than 44.....

Posted by: waxtraxs | January 24, 2011 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to the USPS. As for the rural customers driving 20 miles, aren't they used to it? I thought they liked living in rural areas because they are farther away from it all. Plus rural folks are more likely to be conservative small government types. Shouldn't they be opposed to the rest of the country subsidizing them and their post office branch that gets 3 customers a day?

Posted by: Booyah5000 | January 24, 2011 9:34 PM | Report abuse

"I remember when one could go to a post office 24/7 and a) purchase stamps from a vending machine, b) weigh small packages/envelopes, c) determine correct postage from charts on the wall, and d) post packages of reasonable sizes."

We can thank cheney for scaring the spit out everyone, corner post boxes a thing of the past because OBL might be inside on his magic flying carpet ready to escape if we tried to mail a letter.

Posted by: knjincvc | January 24, 2011 9:37 PM | Report abuse


Clearly, the Post Office is a National asset and beneficial to nearly everyone.

However, it has been run into the ground by inefficiency, poor management and an inflated pay structure, which even has bonuses paid to those who least deserve them.

The Post Office must be operated like a business, NOT the give away program it has become.

Nepotism, cronyism and a culture of entitlement has been allowed to take down what was once a model of efficiency and good service, to the lowest tier in the delivery industry.

The Post Office spends too much money, time and resources on everything, EXCEPT delivery of the mail.

Posted by: chicago77 | January 24, 2011 9:42 PM | Report abuse

here come the "we want more efficiency" members of congress screaming about closing "their" post office. if demint and company would just allow the usps to charge actual costs to deliver junk mail instead of subsidizing walmart's flyers with first class revenues, then there would be no need to end saturday deliveries or to close so many local offices.

Posted by: george32 | January 24, 2011 9:45 PM | Report abuse

popular websites like printapons and retail me not has coupons for pretty much any shopping site I've gone to most of the coupons are valid drops down with coupons without me having to search for them

Posted by: birdiegray | January 25, 2011 5:39 AM | Report abuse

Here is a thought, almost everyone who responded to the comment is either Washington, DC or North and West--go to Southern Maryland to the busiest post offices--Waldorf and White Plains.

I agree with cutting the ones with only a few customers, but try the White Plains Post Office on a Saturday. Good luck getting out of there in 5 minutes--very busy.

Secondly, why don't you look at the bonus the Post Master General received 3 years ago--$850,000. What a shame -- mismanagement of management!

Grandma wants to send cookies at Christmas, but she lives far into the rural areas--one of the few customers per day at her local post office. But didn't Grandma get run over by the reigndeer--or was it the Post Man trying to make those deliveries since they are cutting people. Shame on the Post Master General. Let's look into his assets, salaries and bonuses.

Posted by: drobinson52 | January 25, 2011 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Email and text messaging have been game changers. It is a good day when a governmental agency cuts its bureaucracy.

Posted by: LETFREEDOMRING2 | January 25, 2011 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Kudos to the USPS. As for the rural customers driving 20 miles, aren't they used to it? I thought they liked living in rural areas because they are farther away from it all. Plus rural folks are more likely to be conservative small government types. Shouldn't they be opposed to the rest of the country subsidizing them and their post office branch that gets 3 customers a day?

Posted by: Booyah5000
*************************************

A little arrogant, aren't we?

Posted by: shayladane | January 25, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Ah, swwissmiss I bet I know which PO you are talking about - - the lines are long, the clerk(clerks if we are lucky) are sloow, rude and uninformed.

Posted by: bronxace | January 25, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

To drobinson52- I had the fortune? to work at Postal Headquarters -- in my office, there were 2 clerks, 3 systems people and THREE Fat Cat supervisors -- all arrogant and condescending. God knows how much money they made while we slaved away under their screw-tinizing eyes (IF they were not out of town, or at one or another luncheon or party or "meeting"). WHEN they were in their offices, we could hear them yak yak yakking on their phones and making fun of their subordinates.

Posted by: bronxace | January 25, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"Does anyone remember twice daily deliveries?"

Posted by: PhysicsDemos
I do -- NY City -- when postage was 3 cents for a First Class Letter. First delivery around 11 am -- second around 2 pm.

Posted by: bronxace | January 25, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

The major expense is delivery: people, pensions, vehicles, fuel and maintenance. Delivery should be three days per week to half the area, three days per week to the other half by part-time carriers. Future generations will not need or use the post office; the entire system is on its way out.

Posted by: Observant11 | January 25, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

In reponse to the unbelievably ignorant comments placed here by postisarag, Booyah5000 and others, the potential closing of USPS offices has more to do with the higher ups in the chain of salaried professionals, than it does with rural areas. Their exorbitant salaries and pensions along with ridiculous pay increases such as that of John E Potter has not helped their cause. Rural people deserve mail as much as anyone else. Just because some idiots actually prefer to live like sardines in over crowded cities does not mean other people should suffer. Open your mind and shut your mouths.

Posted by: arlena1 | January 25, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I agree with swissmiss. It doesn't make sence for post office hours to be set at 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Many people (including me) are usually at work during that time period. So, in order to use post office services one must either go to work late, or leave work early. Which doesn't lend to efficent service or the needs of their customers.

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | January 25, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

"This is a change that is long overdue.

And it's a very fair change. There is no reason that people in remote, rural communities should be subsidized by people who live in cities."

That is a fair statement. I assume that you do not mind if I get a refund of my taxes that go to fund urban mass transit or airports or museums or ... I am sure that no one wants to start peeling away the layers of federal spending until we find a rational cost-benefit basis for spending. Why don't we all let the new Postmaster General use business tools to run the Postal Service as a service for all of the United States?

That said, the simplest solution to increasing service without increasing hours is to rotate the USPS work day so it is available to more people with different working hours. Rotate the 8:30 to 5:00 counter hours to 11:30 to 7:00, then measure how many urban post offices and branch offices are needed.

Posted by: ralphgrutzmacher | January 25, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

The USPS contracts out the transportation of the majority of the mail. UPS and FEDEX transport the majority of the US Mail.The USPS never has had aircraft. Air lines used to compete for mail contracts. Who do you think pays for all the Flat rate advertising on hundreds of TV channels???
Not the USPS. Who gets the tax deduction for thes ads??? The USPS is tax exempt. When the local post offices do close, how cheap do you think computerize mailing will be??? If you analize your credit card charges closely; its not saving you much now. Free pick up will probably end.
The United States Postal Service does need a name change. Maybe The USPSS (The United States Postal Self Service) would be more appropriate.

Posted by: farmhouse2002 | January 25, 2011 2:24 PM | Report abuse


If his neck were any fatter, it would pop out of his collar.

Posted by: screwjob23 | January 25, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

In Des Moines, IA, a supermarket chain has dedicated space to a "post office" section staffed with store employees. I do not know if the USPS pays for the service, but even if it does, I expect it would be much less expensive than maintaining and staffing separate USPS office. Perhaps this approach could be used in other locals.

For those complaining about the postal workers "inflated wages", do they even know how much postal employees are paid? Acording to a report on their pay as of 3-15-08, the Postal Service had two pay levels and each of those levels had 17 "steps". Three of the pay steps were in the $30,000 range and the remaining 31 steps were all in the $40,000 range. These figures do not include fringe benefits.

The report also stated the largest group of postal workers are in the bargaining unit and that postal workers cost of living wage increase for 2005-2006 was $812, the highest in 26 years.


In the last three years I have lived in CA, IA, and AZ. I use post office services more than most. With few exceptions I have found them to be courteous, and efficient - even with those customers that come in with a chip on their shoulder. (I do not work for the postal service and none of my family or friends do.)

Posted by: gmprice3 | January 25, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I agree with drobinson52 100 percent. I, too have patronized both the Waldorf and White Plains post offices in So MD. Case in point: I went to the White Plains PO one Saturday morning where the line was out the door... but at 11:59 am, a postal employee stood outside of the lobby door to lock it precisely at 12 noon, right at the closest patron's behind... and too bad for anyone else on the opposite side of the door. While the USPS is considering cutbacks, they should also consider expanding hours at both of those post offices because the demand for services is overwhelming, esp. at the White Plains PO where they STILL have 9 - 5 (M-F) and 9 - noon (Sat) hours.

Posted by: MorningGlory23 | January 25, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

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