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April 25, 2013 7:19 am

EDITORIAL: Saturdays or savings?

Written by Ilene Olson

Ceasing Saturday letter delivery makes sense

It is difficult to know what Congress was thinking last month when it overruled the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to stop letter delivery on Saturdays.

The plan, announced by the Postal Service in February, aimed at saving $2 billion by not delivering letters on Saturdays, although Saturday package delivery would have continued.

Package delivery is growing as more people order things online, while the volume of letters has slumped with increased use of email and other Internet services.

However, that plan relied on Congress’ willingness to end a longstanding ban on five-day-per-week mail delivery. And Congress wasn’t willing to do that.

The spending resolution passed by Congress in March included restrictive language that requires mail delivery six days per week.

One of the best aspects of the Postal Service’s plan was the fact that it would have affected everyone equally. We all share the pain, so to speak.

Ending Saturday letter delivery was a common-sense way to save money and reduce the Postal Service’s budget deficit without major impacts. While Saturday letter delivery is convenient, it is hardly as essential as it was years ago, before email and electronic bill pay options were part of everyday life for most people.

That would not have been true of the Postal Service’s previous plan, also blocked by Congress, to close many small rural post offices to save money.

Post offices in Emblem, Byron and Deaver were among the proposed closures. Closing those post offices would have been more than a mere inconvenience; it would have made it difficult, and in some cases nearly impossible, for people in those communities to get their mail. It’s not like there is another post office just across town; those post offices provide the only mail service for those communities. If they closed down, the nearest alternatives are miles away — sometimes many miles away — in other towns. Those people’s access to mail services would have been affected to the extreme, while others would have been completely unaffected.

Congress was right in blocking the closure of those post offices.

Meanwhile, the Postal Service continues to run in the red, and it continues to look for answers. The service’s governing board said it is not possible for the service to meet its goals for reduced spending without altering its delivery schedule.

If Congress continues to insist on six-day-per-week letter delivery, it is taking a feasible and fair money-saving option off the table for the Postal Service, which lost $15.9 billion last year.

With the service’s budget in the red, it’s time for Congress to allow the service to make the changes it needs to cut costs and increase efficiency, while not affecting some communities more than others.

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