Sunday, June 12, 2011

Postal commission chairman asks USPS for report that could head off some post-office closings

The head of the federal agency that oversees the U.S. Postal Service told Postmaster General Pat Donahoe in a letter last week that she fears the USPS is not following federal law in closing what appears to be an increasing number of post offices, many of them rural, and asked for detailed information about the topic in a way that could head off some office closings.

Ruth Goldway, chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, reminded Donahoe that the Postal Service assured the commission that if new rules for evaluating post offices for closure "indicate that closing a significant number of existing retail outlets appeared justified," the service would seek an advisory opinion from the commission before closing the offices, which she said is required by Title 39 of the U.S. Code.

"Numerous articles have appeared in the press identifying facilities in a number of states that have been closed, or that have been evaluated for potential closing, or shortly will be evaluated for potential closing," Goldway wrote. "The Commission has received an increased number of post office closing appeals, hundreds of inquiries from citizens, and has had communications with concerned members of Congress. Thus, it appears that the Postal Service may already be engaged in a nationwide change in service without prior notification to the Commission as Title 39 requires."

Goldway said the USPS should seek an advisory opinion to avoid "the confusion that now surrounds post office closings," and include "a detailed discussion of how the cumulative impact of the local changes involved will affect the fulfillment of national access and delivery aspects of the Postal Service's universal service obligation." She said the commission wants to know the post offices that have closed since Jan. 1, those "noticed for closure or lease termination and that are still under consideration," the offices "for which cessation of service is currently under internal review," and a state-by-state list of post offices. To download the letter, click here.

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