Carlton residents seemed resigned to a reduction in hours at their post office. Kathryn Smithson-Page, in blue, was one of two Postal Service representatives who traveled to Carlton from Seattle to get feedback on options and to answer questions. Photo by Marcy Stamper
BY MARCY STAMPER
Officials with the U.S. Postal Service are “trying to brainstorm logistical issues” to find the best four-hour slot for efficient mail processing and security at the Carlton post office.
Three dozen Carlton customers attended a meeting at the post office with representatives from the Postal Service on Monday (June 17) to learn about proposals for cutting weekday window hours from seven-and-a-half to four. Half of the town’s 257 postal customers had filled out surveys indicating their preferences for either reducing the hours or replacing the post office with a retail outlet or a nearby post office, according to Karen Bacon, manager of post office operations, who came from Seattle to talk to the group.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents opted for a reduction in hours, but Bacon did not have a breakdown for which four-hour slot the customers preferred.
“After reviewing the surveys … and taking into account Postal Service operational needs,” retail hours for Carlton would likely be from 1 to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, according to a fact sheet distributed at the meeting. Because it takes at least two hours to sort mail, people would not get mail in their boxes until at least 3 p.m. under that schedule, said Bacon.
Despite this recommendation, Bacon said she was not comfortable with afternoon hours and doubted that Carlton’s customers would be, either, so she was continuing to research other options.
The Postal Service does not tabulate specific preferences for time slots, but will use survey results and feedback from the meeting in making a decision, according to spokesperson David Rupert.
Among the logistical issues the Postal Service needs to address is how to transport mail to and from the post office for distribution to mailboxes and for mailing. Mail is dropped off and picked up both by mail carriers and contractors, but for security reasons, a bag cannot be left outside if the office is closed, said Bacon.
The Postal Service is considering installing locked boxes for parcel pick-up in the lobby, which is open 24 hours a day, and the possibility of sharing hours with staff at the Methow post office, where hours were cut to 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. in March. The Carlton Store has also been exploring the possibility of offering some services, including selling stamps and packaging, according to owner Jeff Lyman.
Attendees at the meeting asked about ways to purchase stamps either online or through stamp machines. Bacon said stamp machines had been phased out 10 years ago because they were unreliable. She said they would look into options for more complete online services.
Despite the inconveniences, attendees at the meeting were accepting of the proposed changes, and some had praise for the Postal Service. Randy Levine, who remembered when his post office box cost just $2.40 a year, said he likes getting his mail in Carlton and finds rates much lower than in other countries. “The post office is bankrupt because of the Internet,” he said. “If I get two hand-written letters a year, it’s a lot. Most people get zero – just crap.”
Bacon said the Postal Service has not gotten as far as they had hoped with measures in Congress to improve financial stability, but assured people that the Carlton post office would not close.
Bacon expects a decision on new hours in about a week, which will be posted on the post office door. The change would be implemented no sooner than 30 days after that.