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Shrink the post office? Union residents asked

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(Monica Maschak - mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Customers enter the Union Post Office on Thursday morning. The postal service wants to reduce its hours to save money, but officials are asking for residents’ input before making any decisions. An informational meeting about the survey is set for Thursday at the post office.

UNION – The U.S. Postal Service has asked Union residents whether the post office on Depot Street should be open fewer hours or closed altogether as the service downsizes rural locations in the face of declining demand.

Residents in the small village near Marengo had until Thursday to reply to a Postal Service mailer about the future of the post office at 17803 Depot St.

“We would like to preserve the post office presence there, with reduced hours,” said Sean Hargadon, spokesman for the Postal Service’s Northern Illinois District. “But there’s other available options to residents.”

Identical surveys are being delivered to 1,300 other rural communities after the Postal Service announced in May a plan to shed nearly a half-billion dollars in annual costs.

While planning for hour reductions, the agency learned through a national survey that rural customers preferred a physical postal presence in town. The local surveys, Hargadon said, allow residents to say whether they want to preserve a post office building.

Union residents who missed Thursday’s survey deadline can state their opinion about reduced hours at a Postal Service public meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Union office. Officials will discuss the survey and alternatives to whittling hours at the post office.

The agency has been trying to salvage its historic services in an era of increasing communications technology and competition from private businesses such as FedEx and UPS.

The service’s main revenue source, first-class mail, has declined by nearly 25 billion pieces in volume since 2001. Total mail volume declined by 36.5 billion pieces in the past decade, Postal Service figures show.

The agency announced a loss of $5.2 billion during the latest financial quarter because of declines in first-class mail and federally mandated funding of retiree health benefits.

“For years, our facilities and network were built on first-class mail, and since 2007, it’s gone down by 50 percent each year,” Hargadon said. “We are trying to adjust the facilities and services so we can become more efficient and, at the same time, save money.”

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