Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe announced Wednesday that the Postal Service is planning to eliminate Saturday first class mail deliveries, starting Aug. 5. All packages, including priority and express mail, would continue to be delivered on Saturday. Post offices that are currently open on Saturdays would remain open and mail would be placed in post office boxes on Saturdays.
“They should have done it years before,” said John Seaton, who owns Bella Coffee on Maple Street. “I don’t think the Postal Service, as it is now, is viable. We don’t need a post office in every little burg. If the Postal Service wants to break even, they have to make some hard choices and they’re not ready to do so.”
Seaton said he would prefer the Postal Service getting rid of some of the smaller post offices or cutting Saturday deliveries rather than raising postage rates every year. But he was complimentary of the job done by the local post office.
“The post office has become more competitive,” he said. “They do a good job shipping packages and they get them delivered when they say they will.”
As an aside, he added, “Maybe they should consider selling the whole system to UPS or FedEx.”
A store customer, Phil Carter, said he doesn’t think eliminating Saturday deliveries will make much difference.
“I don’t have to have anything on Saturday that can’t wait until Monday,” Carter said. “I might feel different if I had a business.”
Carrollton insurance agent Dan McBrayer said his office isn’t open on Saturdays, so cutting Saturday deliveries wouldn’t bother him. He said he also understands the need of the Postal Service to save money. However, he wonders what the change would mean to Monday mail deliveries.
“Monday is probably the busiest day the post office has already,” McBrayer said. “I think it could turn Monday into a nightmare for postal delivery.”
A posting on the Times-Georgian Facebook page about the Postal Service plans to end Saturday mail delivery brought many responses, most of them either favoring the decision or feeling it would have little effect.
“Honestly, I never receive first class mail on Saturday,” said Diane Weldy Tavegia, in her posting. “I have no problem with no mail on Saturday. I do all my banking online and have all my obligations set up as automatic withdrawal and paperless billing.”
“I think that most everything that we use these days are going directly toward computer,” wrote Bernie Collins. “It’s easy to see the e-mail usage over the past ten year has skyrocketed. It’s a much quicker way of communication and with that being said, the demand for personal mailed letters has dropped. I feel in the next ten years more mail will be done away with.”
Local postmasters declined to comment on the proposed change, referring any comments to the Atlanta District office of the Postal Service.
“It would mean that we deliver mail five days a week and packages six days a week,” said Michael Miles, communications manager for the Atlanta District. “It wouldn’t have any impact on post office operation. If you have a post office box, mail will be delivered to your box on Saturday. From the post office standpoint, nothing will change.”
Third District U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, whose district includes Carroll County, issued a statement Thursday favorable to the decision.
“I know that this change may be concerning for some of you and I agree that continuing Saturday delivery service would be ideal,” Westmoreland said. “Unfortunately, as the federal government works to tighten its belt, we are going to have to make some tough changes. This one small change will save the USPS $2 billion every year. And more importantly, it helps to prevent a taxpayer funded bailout.”
But spokesmen for two different labor unions representing postal workers were critical of the plan.
Cliff Guffey, president of the American Postal Workers Union, said the elimination of Saturday mail deliveries will “only deepen the agency’s congressionally-manufactured financial crisis.”
“USPS executives cannot save the postal service by tearing it apart,” Guffey said. “These across-the-board cutbacks will weaken the nation’s mail system and put it on a path to privatization.”
He blamed most of the problems on a congressional mandate, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which forces the Postal Service to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees and to do it in a 10-year period. He charged that since the act took effect in 2007, the Postal Service has had to pay about $5.5 billion per year and that the law prohibits the Postal Service from raising postage rates to cover the cost.
National Association of Letter Carriers union president, Fredric Rolando, also blasted the proposed cut in Saturday deliveries, saying it would be “particularly harmful to small businesses, rural communities, the elderly, the disabled and others who depend on Saturday delivery for commerce and communication.”
“Instead of offering a real business plan to tap the full potential of this essential American institution, he (Postmaster General Donahoe) is offering a plan that will doom USPS to failure,” Rolando charged.
Donahoe said Wednesday that the USPS needs more flexibility to stem loses, which he said reached $15.9 billion in the last fiscal year. There has been a 37 percent drop in first class mail since 2007, because people pay bills online, he said. He said the elimination of Saturday deliveries would save about $2 billion, but there’s still a $20 billion gap to close.
— The Associated Press contributed to this article.