By Marcy Stamper
Stickers showing an earlier collection time — of 12:40 p.m. — on mailboxes in the Methow Valley were affixed to alert people to a change some time next year, but any letters deposited by 4 p.m. will still be sent on their way the same day.
The labels comply with the U.S. Postal Service’s requirement to notify customers about changes in mail-collection hours at least 30 days in advance, according to Ernie Swanson, communications programs specialist for the agency.
The Postal Service is planning to consolidate about 82 mail processing centers across the country, including the one in Wenatchee, next year. That change will mean earlier pick-up times because all mail going to and from the Methow Valley will go through Spokane, said Swanson.
No date has been set for the consolidation of the Wenatchee facility. When the date is confirmed, notices will be hung in post office lobbies, said Swanson.
As part of other changes made by the Postal Service to cut costs, first-class mail will no longer be delivered overnight anywhere in the country, unless the sender pays for express delivery.
As mail volumes have dropped over the past decade, the Postal Service has asked Congress to change other specifications that affect the economics of its operations.
The Postal Service is asking Congress for a reduced schedule for payments to its retirement fund. The Postal Service has been required to pre-pay these benefits, even though there is enough money to cover retirees in the immediate future, said Swanson.
The service has defaulted on the payments the past three years and does not expect to have the funds when the payment is due at the end of this month, said Swanson.
There have been several bills proposed in both the House and Senate over the past few years to alter the Postal Service’s business model, but none has advanced very far, said Swanson.
While the Postal Service is a semi-governmental agency, a 1970 law required it to become largely self-sustaining. Despite this quasi-independent status, Congress still has the authority for setting postage rates and operating procedures.