The chairman of the postal regulator in the United States has warned the US Postal Service that it is damaging relations with its much-needed customers with a post office closure process that causes “needless confusion”.
Ruth Goldway was commenting yesterday as her Postal Regulatory Commission was ruling on the appeal of a post office relocation proposed for Berkeley, California.
She said in “many instances”, the Postal Service had announced plans to relocate services from existing post offices before identifying locations for the replacement post offices.
In doing so, she said USPS was making it very difficult to review the impacts of relocating post offices.
“Decisions to relocate a post office can be wrenching on a community. The Postal Service should undertake a thorough and balanced review,” Goldway said, adding: “A decision to sell a building prior to identifying a relocation site bifurcates the community input and
significantly reduces the ability of the Service and the community to evaluate the impact of relocation.”
The relocation of the Berkeley post office is part of a nationwide effort by USPS to cut the costs of its retail network by closing or moving post offices to smaller locations, or by leasing space instead of owning the buildings in which post offices are located.
As well as cutting costs to help close its $20bn budget gap, USPS states that reduced mail volumes mean many of its post offices do not need to be so large.
USPS announced back in April that it intended to relocate the post office on Berkeley’s Allston Way, but although it stated that it intended to sell the building, it did not state where the post office would be moved to. Public comments were taken in February and March, prior to the decision.
The Postal Regulatory Commission decided yesterday that it could not rule on an appeal made by the community in Berkeley because USPS had not stated to which location the post office was being moved.
The post office relocation/closure programme has attracted plenty of local newspaper headlines from communities angered by decisions to move their post offices, often from historic buildings.
Accusations have been made that the community outreach process has not always been clear, including the rights of appeal, for example when facilities are designated as stations or branches rather than post offices, and are therefore denied any right of appeal.
Last week Goldway dissented against a decision by her Commission to refuse to even consider the appeal of a post office closing in Somerset, New Jersey, because the appeal was filed a single day too late.
Yesterday, regarding the relocation issue, Goldway called on USPS to improve its process by identifying new post office locations at the same time as its decision to relocate an existing post office.
She said: “The process the Postal Service is currently employing appears to cause needless confusion in the affected communities, as evidenced by the appeals filed with the Commission, and damages its relations with the customers it is trying so hard to retain.”