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USPS proposing cut to Saturday delivery

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS), faced with a dwindling number of customers and growing shortfalls, plans to raise prices, cut costs and ask for rule changes to make the struggling service more flexible, Postmaster General John Potter said Tuesday.

Among the largest changes USPS is targeting is the elimination of Saturday delivery.

The agency ended up $297 million in debt from October through December, which is usually its best season because of holiday mailings.

USPS has pitched this idea in the past, but the plan got a cold reception from Congress, but Demopolis Postmaster Buddy Pickel expects things to go much differently this time around.

“The Postmaster General has suggested this before, but this time, he’s had some consultants to surveys about how it may impact customer service and the financial impact that it can have,” he said. “He’s really pressing this as something that needs to be done.”

Citing e-mail and competition from other delivery companies, USPS expects mail volume to decline about 10 billion pieces in 2010, with first class mail expected to drop 37 percent by 2020, leaving the service with a cumulative shortfall that could hit $238 billion by 2020, USPS said in a press release.

While the savings may be significant, Pickel said he expects a mixed reaction, should the measure gain approval.

“For the businesses, it probably won’t have that much of an impact. A lot of them aren’t open on the weekends or are only open part of the day,” Pickel noted. “Personally, I think the general public would miss it more than the businesses.”

Any alteration to the delivery schedule would first have to be approved by Congress in order to repeal a mandate established in 1983 stipulating mail be delivered six days per week.

Even if the USPS eliminates Saturday delivery — which is estimated to save the organization more than $3 billion annually — offices will continue to sort mail and deliver post office boxes on the weekends.

Among other proposals made were a postage rate increase, the consolidation of offices and the closures of some rural post offices, while increasing its presence in malls and shopping plazas through kiosks and the restructuring of retiree health benefit payments.

“The post office is cutting back on just about every level,” Pickel said. “We’ve already lost some staffing here.”