By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
FORT JOHNSON -- The village post office's hours will change by the mid-November, United States Postal Service staff said at a public meeting Friday.
Approximately 14 residents gathered in the village hall to provide input about the changes, which are part of a national plan to streamline operations.
Residents agreed on three hour slots in both the morning and afternoon. The office will likely be open weekdays from 7:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday hours will remain unchanged at 8:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
The major difference, said U.S.P.S. Post Office Operations Manager Mary Madonna, is that both the window and lobby will be open during weekday hours. Under the current hours, the lobby is open at times the window isn't.
"We understand there is an impact, but we had to do something," Madonna said. She cited the service's $25 billion worth of losses since 2007, citing a 50 percent reduction in first-class mail.
Postmaster Pat Cassella said she is happy with the hours the villagers chose, because she's had a lot of phone calls from people concerned whether they'd be able to get into the post office after work. The proposed 5 p.m. closing time is consistent with the current closing time.
"People like that it stays open late," she said. "The most important thing is we're still open."
Cassella said she'll be as accommodating as she can under the new hours.
"I don't shut the door in people's faces, of course," she said. "I understand people want to get their packages. For the most part, everyone knows the hours, and they're accountable."
Madonna said the service is considering the introduction of "parcel lockers" at the Fort Johnson Post Office so people can get their packages if the office isn't open. Under that system, people would be delivered a key to a locker.
The national sweep will affect 13,000 post offices in the next two years. In lieu of initial calls to close rural post offices, the service responded to public outcry and opted instead to evaluate how operations could be streamlined.
A recent evaluation of foot traffic and services rendered at the village's post office indicated the site could be open for six hours a day. Other offices will see their hours reduced to between two and six hours.
Realignment of hours was one of four options listed on a survey mailed to 781 village residents last month. Of the 198 surveys returned, 89 percent chose that option. Fifteen others opted for delivery, or use of a nearby post office, and six didn't choose an option.
Madonna reminded residents that the village post office's performance will determine its existence, urging them to take advantage of its services.
"This is going to be a continual evaluation, and it will always be predicated on workload," she said. "You want postage bought and sold in Fort Johnson."
Madonna reminded residents that stamps can be mail-ordered through carriers, who can also pick up mail that has to be delivered.
Anyone who has questions about the changes can call Cassella at 842-5582.