By DAVID PITT, Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa - The U.S. Postal Service said Monday its decision to halt the closing of more than 3,700 post offices includes roughly 600 urban and suburban postal branch offices and satellite stations.
The facilities in many cities serve as neighborhood post offices. The Postal Service announced last year that it was looking at closing up to 252 mail-processing centers and 3,700 post offices, many of them in rural areas, as part of a plan to save some $6.5 billion a year.
It backed off the plan to close the 3,700 post offices last week, saying it would no longer close thousands of rural post offices but would keep them open with shorter hours. The mail agency on Monday reiterated that about 600 branches and satellite stations in urban and suburban locations that had been included in the original study for closure also will be kept open, rather than shut down sometime after Tuesday.
"Any proposals to close these facilities have been placed on hold and will not close at this time," said a statement from Richard Watkins, Postal Service spokesman in the Kansas City area. "Going forward, the Postal Service will evaluate how best to incorporate them into long-term plans for effective and efficient retail service."
The Postal Service has said it will also put forward a new plan for the mail processing centers later this week.
It has been struggling as people switch to email and other electronic forms of communication.
The Senate offered an $11 billion cash infusion last month, but Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that amount fell far short of what is needed to save the Postal Service in the long term. The House has yet to take action on its own bill.
Despite last week's announcement, some customers and postal workers were still under the impression Monday that their post offices were targeted for closure.
The American Postal Workers Union, The National Federation of the Blind Iowa and other groups held a rally Monday in Des Moines in support of keeping it the downtown Capitol Square Post Office open.
Gano Whetstone, 67, a retired teacher, was among the 25 people to attend the rally. She lives in senior citizens housing connected to Capitol Square by enclosed skywalks. In the winter, she can mail packages, letters and cards without going outside.
She said she walks to the post office twice a week. If it closes, she'd have to find transportation to the main post office a mile away.
"It would be awfully difficult to get to the post office with the traffic and everything," she said. "It would be very inconvenient."
Dennis Carmen, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers branch in Toledo, Ohio, was still under the impression Monday that three offices there could be closed.
Two of the offices are in low income areas, where Carmen said the post office is an integral part of the community. If the office at Point Place would close, it would mean customers have to travel eight miles to the nearest post office, he said.
"We had a town hall meeting and it was packed," Carmen said. "The public was just saying how they need that retail outlet there."
Pressure has been building on the Postal Service to extend a self-imposed moratorium on the closure of post offices and mail processing facilities. It was set to expire Tuesday.
Last week, nearly half of the Senate signed letter directed to Donahoe asking him wait until Congress can act.
"The USPS is a major employer around the country and employs over 500,000 workers," the letter said. "With an unacceptably high unemployment rate, it would be particularly inopportune for the USPS to close facilities."
Some mail processing centers could still close or merge. For example, one proposal calls for the Springfield, Mo., center to have its work merged into the Kansas City operation and the Cape Girardeau, Mo., processing center work moved to St. Louis.
In Nebraska, the Norfolk and Grand Island centers may be merged into Omaha and Alliance work moved to North Platte.
The Postal Service last week reported a quarterly loss of $3.2 billion and said without legislative action, it will be forced to default on more than $11 billion in health prepayments due to the Treasury this fall.
The Postal Service is an independent agency of government and does not receive tax money for its operations but is subject to congressional control over major aspects of its business.