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Special Delivery: Lexington Post Office to Survive as USPS Reviews Branches for Closure

The US Postal Service yesterday announced it will consider closing thousands of branches.

In a move designed to streamline operations and save money, the United States Postal Service (USPS) will review more than 3,600 branches nationwide to decide which ones to close.

The is not on the list of branches under review that the USPS released today, but several branches in surrounding communities landed on the list, including: 

  • Arlington Heights
  • East Arlington
  • South Waltham
  • Inman Square
  • MIT
  • Tufts
  • East Watertown
  • West Newton

A spokeswoman for the USPS in St. Louis told Patch the study covers retail (branches) only, and stressed that delivery is not under review.

“Customers have shown us that they no longer need a brick-and-mortar post office,” Valerie Hughes, USPS spokeswoman, said. She pointed to the USPS’s automated postal centers, mobile apps and online services and as well as retailers that sell postage. Hughes said the USPS has seen a decline in post office visits that amounts to 200 million over the past five years.

Postmaster Patrick Donahoe referred to evolving customer behavior in making today’s announcement.

“Today, more than 35 percent of the Postal Service's retail revenue comes from expanded access locations such as grocery stores, drug stores, office supply stores, retail chains, self-service kiosks, ATMs and usps.com, open 24/7," Donahoe said in a statement to the media. "Our customer's habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business."

Local Post

Here in Lexington, residents told Patch they still use their local post office for certain things, but don't make regular trips or expect to socialize there.

"Just to buy stamps, essentially," said Matthew Walsh, "and occasionally to drop off mail from time to time."

Like Walsh, resident Tamara Goell drops off mail in boxes around town or lets her mailcarrier pick it up. And, while her husband pays most of the bills online, Goell does drop by the post office from time to time -- although it's not always in Lexington.

"I don't use it very often," said Goell. "I live on the Bedford side of town, so I go there more -- to buy stamps, or mail packages on special occasions."

For some, however, the post office still an important symbol in a community, said Hank Manz, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen and Patch columnist.

"I don't do much by snail mail anymore, but I still go there at least twice a month," Manz wrote on Lexington Patch yesterday. "And, when I need to go there, it is really handy to have it nearby. The local post office has been very helpful a couple of times when a bulk mailing was not submitted in time, but the local office made it happen anyway."

Review is first step, closure possible

The review process does not mean closure is a sure thing. The Huffington Post reports the USPS announced a review of 1,400 offices in January, but has closed only 280 of those so far and spared another 200. 

According to an article from UPI, the closure review covers about 11 percent of post offices around the country. There are more than 31,000 in all.

The Huffington Post says the USPS lost more than $8 billion in 2010. Its article describes an alternative to the traditional branch, the so-called Village Post Office.

“By working with third-party retailers, we’re creating easier, more convenient access to our products and services when and where our customers want them,” Donahoe said today. “The Village Post Office will offer another way for us to meet our customers’ needs.”

Changing times, changing needs

The USPS began reviewing the viability of its branches in 2009, with a list of more than 3,300 branches. Most survived, with only about 170 still under review by year’s end.

In January 2010, the post office updated the Public Regulatory Commission on the review process, explaining the post offices that faced closure were “in relatively close proximity to one another where consolidations might be feasible without compromising customer access.”

In a USPS press release that month, Dean Granholm, vice president of Delivery and Post Office Operations, acknowledged “Consumer behavior is changing. It is important for the Postal Service to adjust to the shift.”

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