EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 7, 2013

Delivery options

U.S. Postal Service wants to cancel Saturday service

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — The U.S. Postal Service may change Karen Tierney’s Saturday routine.

Every other week, the Litchfield resident said, she heads to the mailbox to pick up her paycheck.

But that could change in August if the USPS follows through with plans to cut back first-class mail delivery to five days a week.

Tierney was shopping for greeting cards at Annie’s Hallmark in Londonderry yesterday and was upset when she heard about the plan.

“I don’t like that idea. My company mails our paychecks on Thursday and we get it on Saturday,” Tierney said. “Saturday is the one day of the week that I pay a little bit more attention to mail because I am home and in a relaxed environment.”

Package delivery would continue on Saturdays, but the USPS claims it could save $2 billion a year by cutting Saturday deliveries.

Tierney’s not the only one who’s upset. The state’s letter carriers and congressional delegation are angry, too.

“People want their mail delivered on Saturday and if they want it delivered, they will go somewhere else,” said Wayne Altiserio, president of the New Hampshire State Association of Letter Carriers. “(The USPS) is stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime. If you’re going to go there with a package, why not bring the mail, too? We have a lot of packages we’re already delivering. “

But officials with the USPS, which saw a $15.9 billion loss in the past budget year, say the move is necessary.

“The postal service is in dire financial conditions,” said Tom Rizzo, spokesman for the USPS Northern New England District. “The Postal Service Board of Governors offered a directive that we use all available tools to reduce expenses and get to a stable financial footing.”

Alterisio thinks there are other options.

“This massive debt can be solved with one action,” he said. “Stop pre-funding for letter carriers who aren’t born yet. We are the only company in world that has a fully funded pension fund. It would make sense to do what most people do and re-amortize the mortgage. Let’s take what’s left in that payment and stretch it out.”

The majority of the service’s red ink comes from a 2006 law forcing it to pay $11 billion a year into future retiree health benefits, something no other agency does.

The proposed change is based on what appears to be a legal loophole — and that may be a gamble.

Congress has long included a ban on five-day-only delivery in its spending bills. But because the federal government is now operating under a temporary spending measure, rather than an appropriations bill, the USPS believes it can make the change itself.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., doesn’t like the plan.

“I’m disappointed by today’s announcement from the U.S. Postal Service,” Shaheen said yesterday. “I hope the USPS continues to understand the importance of its six-day-a-week package delivery, which many Americans rely on for crucial needs like prescription medications.”

But not everyone is upset about losing mail on Saturdays.

A random survey of people outside the Londonderry Post Office yesterday showed it’s not that important to some customers.

“They need to make money or at least stay even with what they have,” Chris Tutt of Londonderry said. “If people have to wait until Monday to get their mail, I think they will survive.”

Janet Poole of Londonderry said the proposal is long overdue.

“They’re short on money,” Poole said. “They should have done it a long time ago.”

Tierney suggested cutting a different day — Monday, for example — would be a better option.

“There are already so many things closed on Monday,” she said. “They should have done it then.”

Congressman Carol Shea Porter, D-N.H., said the plan does not address the postal service’s financial problems.

“Eliminating Saturday mail delivery does not adequately address the issues facing the U.S. Postal Service,” she said. “This is the wrong approach because the postal service will lose vital business and consumers will be hurt.”

The USPS is in the middle of a major restructuring of its retail, delivery and mail processing operations.

Since 2006, it has cut annual costs by about $15 billion, reduced the size of its career workforce by 193,000, or 28 percent, and has consolidated more than 200 mail processing locations.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.