HONOLULU - Four post offices on Molokai may be open for fewer hours under a proposal to help the U.S. Postal Service save money.
The Molokai post offices include those at Kalaupapa, Hoolehua, Kualapuu and Maunaloa. They are among a dozen in Hawaii that are part of a plan to reduce hours at 13,000 rural post offices across the country. The service proposed the idea Wednesday after backing off another plan to close thousands of rural post offices.
Duke Gonzales, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Hawaii, said the proposal is only the first step in a 27-month process to modify postal hours at smaller, rural post offices. The post offices cited in the proposal are "candidates" for hours modifications, he said. It has not been determined if those post offices will have fewer hours or the extent to which hours would be reduced.
"That depends on the review that will take place in the next 27 months," Gonzales said, adding that part of the process will be community meetings in September and surveys of customers. "We're going to listen to customers and determine what their preferences are," he said.
The agency's initial proposal calls for cutting hours at the post offices between two and six hours a day. An additional 4,000 rural post offices would keep their full-time hours.
The agency also will announce new changes next week involving its proposal to close up to 252 mail processing centers.
Other Hawaii post offices included in the proposal are Makaweli, Laupahoehoe, Hakalau, Hawaii National Park, Honomu, Kaumakani, Kunia and Papaaloa.
The proposal to reduce hours at some rural post offices came Wednesday when the nearly bankrupt U.S. Postal Service bowed to strong opposition to close 3,700, low-revenue rural post offices later this month. Opposition to the closings came from rural states and their lawmakers, who said the cost-cutting would hurt their communities the most.
In recent weeks, rising opposition had led Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to visit some rural areas in a bid to ease fears about cuts that could slow delivery of prescription drugs, newspapers and other services.
In an election year, the angst over postal closings also extended to nearly half the senators, who in letters last week urged Donahoe to postpone closing any mail facility until Congress approves final postal overhaul legislation. The Senate last month passed a bill that would halt many of the closings; the House remains stalled over a separate bill allowing for aggressive cuts.
After the Postal Service gets regulatory approval and hears public input sometime this fall, the new strategy would go into place over two years and be completed in September 2014, saving $500 million a year by reducing full-time staff.
Under the plan, communities would get the option of keeping their area post offices open, but with reduced hours. Another option would be to close a post office in one area while keeping a nearby one open full time.
Communities could opt to create a Village Post Office, one set up in a library, government office or store such as Walmart, Walgreens or Office Depot.