HUBBARD LAKE A rural post office in Alcona County will shorten its hours of operation rather than be closed, officials said Wednesday. The Hubbard Lake facility is one of 20 rural post offices in the area that are undergoing modifications.
The announcement during a public meeting at the Hubbard Lake Community Center. More than 35 locals attended, despite a snowstorm.
Roger City Postmaster Jeanna Gersewski said the service at 13818 Hubbard Lake Road will be open 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-4:30 p.m. weekdays. The change will be made in about five weeks. Saturday hours will stay the same.
The decision is based on a recent survey of Hubbard Lake residents who stated they preferred shorter hours. Of 903 forms mailed to area residents, 314 surveys were returned, with 282 people opting for a cut in hours. The other options were to buy stamps from rural mail carriers, set up a post office in a local business, such as a local gas station, or provide longer hours at another post office.
Similar surveys are being or have been done elsewhere - in the communities of Hawks, Herron, Presque Isle, Lachine, Lincoln, Mikado, Spruce and Curran, she said. So far, Hawks has set up a village post office inside a business, with its regular post office open only from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Lachine's post office has been cut back to four hours weekdays, and Herron and Presque Isle have been cut back to six hours each, he said. But no rural post offices have been closed so far.
The service hopes the reduced hours will save $500 million, she said.
A few years ago, the USPS said it was going to close thousands of post offices in rural areas across the country, including the post office in Spruce. But the move met with so much public opposition that authorities reconsidered, and began using surveys and other means to determine needs.
At Wednesday's meeting residents appeared sympathetic to the postal service's plight and suggested other ways to cut costs, volunteering to reduce their own use. They also were adamant that a way be found to keep the current clerk, postal support employee Susan Richardson, on the job.
Linda Woods, manager of post office operation for Northeast Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, said Richardson will be able to submit a bid for a contract if she wants to continue working in the job.
Richardson, who was at the meeting, said she will do so.
Woods also provided the audience with a look into the inner workings of the mail service.
Mail from Hubbard Lake is now being sent to Traverse City for stamp cancellation and sorting, instead of to Gaylord, which is closer, she said. The Gaylord facility's ceilings were too low for more efficient mail processing equipment. This means a letter sent from a resident at one end of the lake to a resident at another is sent across the state, and processed before it returns to the recipient's mail box.
All mail also must be processed by machinery that is equipped with bio-hazard detectors, Woods said. This is because in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack in 2001, someone mailed three letters containing anthrax, a deadly bacteria. So in order to protect the public, distribution systems were revised.
"There's a lot to our business can I just say that?" she said. "Still, the post office is the most trusted organization out there."
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5693.