- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Six rural post offices in St. Mary’s County are likely to see their hours reduced as the United States Postal Service continues to try to stop its fiscal bleeding by reducing hours at 13,000 small post offices.
The Compton Post Office and Dameron Post Office are both recommended to operate only four hours a day, while the post offices of Park Hall, St. Mary’s City, St. Inigoes and Ridge are recommended to reduce operating hours by 30 minutes to an hour on weekdays.
Reducing hours at the nation’s rural post offices is the best way to save them, the U.S. Postal Service argues. The entire reduction process is expected to take until September 2014, and should save $500 million a year when fully implemented.
A U.S. Postal Service meeting was held for Compton on Tuesday afternoon, while the other locations had meetings scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
None of the six post offices are recommended for closing at this time. The Helen Post Office was placed under “emergency suspension” earlier this year, leaving 27 remaining post offices in St. Mary’s County and 29 ZIP codes.
Surveys were mailed out to the customers of the six post offices that may see hours reduced to get their responses before the community meetings. After the meetings, there will be a public 30-day notice before any change in operating hours.
Many of the officers in charge of these smaller post offices said they had no idea what to expect before the meetings were held.
“They already decided what they’re going to do,” said Debbie Nelson, officer in charge of the Dameron Post Office. “That’s not a good thing for employees or customers. You still have to wait on people.”
The current hours of operation in Dameron are from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with an hour off for lunch. The proposed new hours were expected to be announced Thursday afternoon. The Saturday hours, 9 a.m. to noon, will stay the same.
Dameron is a stand-alone, 884-square-foot building with 190 post office boxes rented out and one delivery route with 134 customers on St. Jerome’s Neck Road and along Route 235 south of Lexington Park.
About 50 or 60 people showed up at the Compton Post Office meeting Tuesday, said Cindy Burch, officer in charge. There wasn’t enough room in the 500-square-foot building, so the meeting was held in the small parking lot.
Compton is currently open for 6½ hours for retail services and the building is open for seven hours for customers to get their mail at the post office boxes.
The Postal Service recommends changing the hours at Compton from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Saturday hours would remain 9 a.m. to noon. Unlike larger post offices that have separate sections to access their rental boxes after hours at Compton “they can only come in when we’re open,” Burch said.
There are 260 post office boxes there, with 114 rented, she said. The Leonardtown Post Office delivers mail to homes and businesses in the area.
“We have a lot of customers who come in to mail things,” Burch said, instead of driving five miles into Leonardtown. “We have a lot of people who like to walk up here, ride their bikes. It’s a nice area,” she said. The St. Clement Shores neighborhood is nearby.
“Why shorten these [hours] all up?” said Michael Gardiner, officer in charge of the Ridge Post Office, which is in a leased space next to the Ridge Supermarket.
With five small post offices within 15 miles of one another, the U.S. Postal Service should consider a central facility for southern St. Mary’s County, he said.
The Scotland Post Office was moved to the Ridge Post Office in 2011 after a lease expired at its old location. There are 134 customers on Scotland’s delivery route and 294 on the Ridge delivery route, Gardiner said. There are 207 post office boxes for Ridge and 43 boxes for Scotland.
The St. Mary’s City Post Office provides post office boxes for St. Mary’s College of Maryland and other nearby residents, but the Lexington Park Post Office makes the deliveries in the area.
An employee at the St. Mary’s City Post Office acknowledged that mail volume has been down, “but you can’t send a box of cookies over the Internet,” she said. The post office has about 470 post office boxes with 230 rented out.
The St. Inigoes Post Office provides mail to the Webster Field Annex of Patuxent River Naval Air Station, 197 rented post office boxes and two delivery routes. The building it is in also has apartments above.
The Park Hall Post Office has 390 post office boxes and is a separate part of a building that houses Cook’s Liquors.
The Abell and Drayden post offices were reviewed last year, but their hours haven’t been reduced.
The U.S. Postal Service funds its operations by selling postage, sales and services and not by tax dollars.