Fate of Clemons PO awaits Congress

A measure in front of the U.S. House of Representatives could delay the closure of thousands of post offices, including one in Clemons, but it appears unlikely the rural office will be permanently spared from the chopping block.

The Clemons post office is one of thousands around the country slated to close on May 15 due to the financial woes of the postal service. The agency has lost billions of dollars, blamed largely on the rise of online communication and increasing costs.

There has been speculation the closings would be delayed, although officials with the postal service couldn’t confirm that.

Maureen Marion, U.S. Postal Service Northeast area spokesperson, said she has received no indication that the closure of the office will be extended for a long period of time.

“Our commitment under the moratorium was that nothing would close by that date (May 15). Are we ramped up and ready to close on May 16, I wouldn’t say that,” she said.

Debbie Winkler, the postmaster at the Clemons office, said Friday morning that she had no new information regarding the impending closure.

“I don’t know nothing,” she said.

Last Wednesday, the Senate approved a measure to give the U.S. Postal Service an $11 billion cash infusion. The bill would halt the immediate closure of up to 252 mail-processing centers and 3,700 post offices that had been slated to close as part of a cost-cutting plan aimed at keeping the cash-strapped agency solvent.

The bill would save about half of those processing centers, bar any shutdowns before the November elections, forbid cuts to Saturday delivery for two years, and implement provisions to protect some rural post offices.

The measure would also place a one-year moratorium on the closure of all rural post offices. It would protect post offices that are more than 10 miles away from the closest branch, with the exception of instances in which there wasn’t opposition from local residents.

Based on those provisions, however, the Clemons Post Office would still close because it’s less than seven miles from the Whitehall office and less than five miles from an office in Huletts Landing.

The Senate bill still needs the approval of the House and it remains to be seen, even if it garners enough support, if it would pass by May 15. The bill has been criticized for not doing enough to address long-term problems and the House has its own postal reform bill, which they have yet to vote on.

Marion said for now the agency is taking a wait-and-see approach and she hasn’t received any indication it will extend its moratorium beyond May 15.

 

Ongoing review

Last spring, as part of a national review of outlets, the USPS began studying the potential closure of the one-room post office located on the west side of Route 22.

According to their findings, the retail window averaged eight transactions per day, accounting for approximately eight minutes of retail workload daily.

That factor, coupled with the cost of operating the facility, led officials to conclude they could save up to $44,000 a year by closing the office and offering curbside service.

Most services, including the delivery and pickup of mail and packages could be done by a rural route carrier and stamps could be purchased by mail order. Any services that couldn’t be provided curbside would be available at locations in Whitehall and Huletts Landing.

Based on its findings, the USPS announced that the office would close, effective Jan. 6.

But it was granted a stay of execution last December after a group of senators from mostly rural states pushed for a five-month moratorium.

The USPS agreed to the moratorium hoping that Congress would pass legislation that would provide financial relief for the agency, which lost $8.5 billion in 2010.

Rural post offices have been especially affected. Last fall, the South Glens Falls post office was closed and locations in Riparius, Sabael (Indian Lake) and Keene Valley have all been targeted for closure.

The Postal Service does not receive taxpayer money for its day-to-day operations, but is subject to congressional control.

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