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TMCNet:  Postal Service to cut Saturday mail to trim costs; reaction in Akron mixed

[February 07, 2013]

Postal Service to cut Saturday mail to trim costs; reaction in Akron mixed

Feb 07, 2013 (The Akron Beacon Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Customers at the main post office on Wolf Ledges Parkway in Akron were, for the most part, not surprised or concerned about an announcement that first-class mail delivery on Saturdays could be discontinued beginning in August.


The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday in Washington, D.C., that it would continue delivering packages six days a week.

The service expects the Saturday mail cutback to begin the week of Aug. 5 and to save about $2 billion annually, said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe.

"Our financial condition is urgent," Donahoe told a news conference.

"It wouldn't affect me any," said Ron Ward, who owns a construction business in Portage County, and receives mail at the main post office. "I can still come and do business out of here." Ward, 45, said he supports the change.

"With electronic email, paying of bills online, it's wise of them to make cuts," he said.

The postal service cited surveys that said a majority of customers favor five-day delivery as the postal service seeks to reduce costs.

"It won't bother me," customer Tina Anderson said outside Akron's main office where she dropped off a package for shipping to California. Anderson sells new and nearly new clothes and shoes online, using the Internet shopping outlet eBay.

"They've been talking about it for a while," she said. "I feel sorry for the postal carrier who will have more to carry." Dorothy Moore, of Akron, agreed.

"I don't think it would bother me that much," she said while waiting to apply for a passport. "We'll get the mail Monday through Friday. It's not like they're doing three days a week." Customer Brittany Johnson, 24, of Akron, however, wondered how the change would alter her ability to pay bills and receive important documents on time.

"I wonder if my rent will be late some months," said Johnson, a student at Stark State College in Jackson Township.

"I normally get a lot of important stuff in the mail on Saturday," including school documents and medical insurance notices relating to her two young children, she said.

Utility not worried FirstEnergy Corp. spokeswoman Jennifer Young said the move to five-day delivery is unlikely to affect operations of the Akron-headquartered electric utility. "We really don't expect it to have a significant impact on the company or our customers," she said.

Young noted that while 87 percent of customers receive their bills through the mail, half of the customers pay online.

She said customers typically receive their bills about two weeks before their due date, so there "should be ample time to respond." Coincidentally, FirstEnergy this week launched a mobile version of its website, www.firstenergycorp.com, to make online bill paying easier. The company also has smartphone apps that allow customers to directly log in to their accounts.

Five-day delivery will prompt a change at the Beacon Journal, which uses the mail to deliver its Savvy Shopper advertising product to non-subscribers. The newspaper's executive vice president and general manager, Alton Brown, said that currently the majority of Savvy Shoppers are delivered to non-subscribers on Friday, but some are delivered on Saturdays.

"The delivery combination [of days] will have to be different," Brown said.

The postal service noted in its announcement that package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010, while the delivery of letters and other mail has declined.

Under the new plan, mail would be delivered to homes and businesses only from Monday through Friday, but would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays.

Though an independent agency, the postal service gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.

One carrier happy A longtime Akron letter carrier, delivering mail on the city's west side Wednesday, said he's happy about the cutback.

"I've worked there for 20 years, and now I won't have to work Saturdays ... It's like I'm retiring," but still working, said the letter carrier, who declined to give his name. He said supervisors had told employees they were not permitted to talk publicly about their jobs.

His view runs counter to that of the National Association of Letter Carriers, however, which denounced the move.

The local letter carrier said reaction to the news at his station was mixed Wednesday morning. A supervisor gathered workers in a meeting room to tell them of the plan.

"The older guys, they've never had weekends off. The young guys are worried about their jobs if they end up laying off." He noted that the contract with the National Association of Letter Carriers prohibits layoffs of workers with more than six years of tenure.

John Shackelford, president of the Akron branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers union, echoed national union officials who spoke against the cutback.

Shackelford said that "a lot of people are relying on emails, texts, but not everybody does that. Some people still depend on the mail carrier." He said carriers provide a valuable community service, often being the "only contact some customers have with the outside world on a daily basis." "The letter carrier still goes to every house, every day six days a week," Shackelford said. "That's a service that you don't want to go away.

Shackelford said there are about 300 members of the Akron branch of the letter carriers union. They are among the more than roughly 1,000 postal service employees in Summit County. The agency is among the 20 largest employers in the county.

Congress has included a ban on five-day delivery in its appropriations bill. But because the federal government is now operating under a temporary spending measure, rather than an appropriations bill, Donahoe says it's the agency's interpretation that it can make the change itself.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. The Associated Press and Bloomberg News wire services contributed to this report.

___ (c)2013 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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