MARLBORO -- Walter Rowland, Postmaster of the Manchester, N.H. post office, did not have very good news to deliver when he met with a crowd of residents this week to talk about the future of the Marlboro post office.
The U.S. Postal Service is losing money at an alarming rate, about $25 million every day, he said, and about 90 percent of the post offices in the country do not bring in enough revenue to meet expenses.
The Marlboro post office is one of about 13,000 across the country that is going to have its hours cut this year and Rowland has been holding meetings like the one in Marlboro all across New England over the past few weeks.
He said the turnout in Marlboro was the highest of any of the many meetings he had been to since the U.S. Postal Service announced the cuts, but he said there probably is not very much town residents will be able to do to help the situation.
"Only 4,000 post offices bring in enough revenue. It's not a good situation right now," he told the group of people crowded into the town office, which is next door to the small post office. "Nobody wants to do this but we don't know what else to do."
About a year ago the U.S. Postal Service announced that it would be closing small post offices around the country to save money.
The Cambridgeport post office was on that list.
That idea proved so unpopular, Rowland told the crowd in Marlboro, that the U.S. Postal Service had to change its plan and was going to instead reduce the hours at post offices across the U.
In Marlboro the post office daily hours will be cut from eight to six.
In Windham County, post offices in Grafton, Jamaica, and Williamsville will also be cut by two hours. At East Dover, Wardsboro, Westminster Station, West Dummerston, West Halifax, West Wardsboro and Whitingham daily service will be reduced from eight hours to four.
The Cambrigeport post office will only be open for two hours a day.
The U.S. Postal Service conducted a survey across the country asking customers if they would rather have their post office hours reduced, completely eliminated, or if they wanted to have it moved to another location or office.
Rowland told the crowd that the decision to cut the hours was made in response to the survey and he said the change will go into effect before 2014.
He said the U.S. Postal Service was holding meetings to announce the change and to collect feedback but a lot of people at the meeting wanted to know what they could do help save their post office.
They wanted to know if their post office was really losing money.
They wanted to know if the mail that goes through Marlboro College could somehow make a difference.
He explained that the U.S. Postal Service was hoping to save about $500,000 annually by reducing the hours.
In an interview after the Marlboro meeting Tom Rizzo, the spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service Northern New England District, said small rural offices like the one in Marlboro do not make enough money to even meet expenses.
He said business is expected to continue to decline with the number of mail items estimated to fall from 177 billion in 2009 to 150 billion in 2020.
So not only will the reduced hours not do very much to help stop the steep losses, but the U.S. Postal Service will be forced to make more tough choices in the future.
"There is not enough business. There is not enough work there to justify being there eight hours a day," Rizzo said about Marlboro, and about thousands of other post offices across the country. "We have huge financial problems and the trend is clearly downward. It is only going to get worse."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.