By Adam Orr
Despite rumors swirling around the community to the contrary, consolidations are not coming to Ashe County’ s U.S. Post Offices, at least not the kind that you may be thinking about.
“The customer won’t even know there has been any consolidation,” said Carl Walton, communications coordinator for the USPS’s Greensboro district. “There might be some internal changes, but nothing is going to change for the customer.”
Walton’s response came after the Jefferson Post posed questions concerning the future of the county’s post offices: Will offices be consolidated? Will lower volume post offices be closed a set number of days per week in an attempt to lower costs?
Walton denied the potential for any of the above changes, but said several options were being considered, including shifting routes that make geographic sense to adjacent post offices, and potentially moving postmasters to oversee these new combined routes. “Postmasters are management professionals, and it makes sense to place their talent where it would be most effective,” said Walton.
The USPS delivers mail to more locations around the United States than any other carrier, including FedEx and UPS. That fact is a major part of the postal service’s problem. The organization has a mandate to provide quality mail service across the entire country, including rural areas that operate at a loss. Offices that are a net drain on the system would normally be closed, but the Postal Service’s special mission makes that difficult.
The size of the organization also makes it difficult to make quick changes. According to the USPS’s 2010 fact sheet, the Postal Service employs more than 596,000 employees, which makes it America’s second largest employer behind Wal-Mart, and utilizes a vehicle fleet of more than 218,000 machines making it the largest civilian motor fleet in the world. These numbers make quickly adapting to change a difficult proposition.
Walton says the changes are necessary in light of the $8.3 billion shortfall the Postal Service is facing this year. Online bill pay and email have slashed first class mail deliveries by half and have routinely forced the Postal Service to operate at a deficit. The past four years have seen the service slash costs by $12 billion, but more will have to come to ensure the continued surival of the USPS.
Some proponents within the organization have floated the idea of ceasing Saturday mail service, which could save the mail carrier up to $3.7 billion per year. Others argue that such a move would mean higher costs on Mondays to deliver mail that would have otherwise been delivered on Saturday, negating many of the cost advantages to ending Saturday service. Polls reflect that ending Saturday service is an unpopular idea with the public, but less so that raising postage rates.
Current post office locations in Ashe County include Creston, Crumpler, Fleetwood, Glendal Springs, Grassy Creek, Jefferson, Lansing, Todd, Warrensville, and West Jefferson.
The postal service has discontinued locations in Ashe County in the past, most recently in September of 2006, when the Scottville location was shuttered. Prior to that, the Husk and Grayson offices were closed in 1995.