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Few local businesses worry about postal service cutbacks

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Local businesses don't believe the U.S. Postal Service's decision to cut Saturday deliveries will have much effect on their operations.  

The Postal Service, which has been hemorrhaging billions of dollars in recent years, announced Wednesday it would end Saturday mail delivery to most customers beginning in August.

The Post Office still will deliver packages and mail to Post Office boxes on Saturdays but will stop weekend mail deliveries to street addresses beginning the week of Aug. 5.

The move is expected to save the Postal Service about $2 billion annually.

While it is a major change for the Post Office, many local businesses that communicate with customers through the mail don't expect much impact.

Charleston Area Medical Center spokesman Dale Witte said the change shouldn't affect any of the hospital group's billing operations.

"We don't anticipate any impact," Witte said. "Our mailroom is five days a week Monday through Friday."

Spokeswomen for utilities Appalachian Power and West Virginia American Water said neither company mails bills to customers on Saturdays, so the change should not have an impact on that end of the business.

Water company spokeswoman Laura Jordan said officials will review the new Post Office procedures to gauge their total effect on customers' receipt of bills and submission of bill payments.

"While we do not mail bills on Saturdays, our company is reviewing the changes, will assess if there will be any impact to customers and, if needed, will make adjustments so that service levels are not affected," Jordan said.

Appalachian Power spokeswoman Jeri Matheney said more West Virginia customers are switching to paperless billing, bypassing the Postal Service completely.

"We are seeing more customers receive their bills electronically, and even more now pay their bills electronically because of the advantages that offers — the ability to see the bill and pay it anytime, and have payments posted to their accounts much faster than a paper check," Matheney said.

While about 90 percent of state residents still receive paper bills in the mail, Matheney said many of them have switched to electronic methods when it comes time to pay those bills.  

"A little under 10 percent of our West Virginia customers receive their bill electronically," she said. "About 37 percent of our customers in Appalachian Power pay their bills electronically."

Jordan said 44 percent of customers pay their water bills electronically or at walk-in payment locations. About 56 percent of the water company's customers still pay by mail.

She said the company has promoted electronic payment methods in recent years. Last year, the company rolled out an electronic funds transfer service to automatically collect the bill payment each month.

"With the recent postage increases, we've really tried to promote this with our customers as a way to save them money and offer the convenience of not having to manually make payments every month," Jordan said.

She said customers access the service online at www.am

water.com/myh2o.

Visitors to the Daily Mail's Facebook page were split over whether the Postal Service decision would affect them personally.

"I haven't received anything other than junk mailings on Saturdays in a long time," said Huntington resident Janet Zimnick Mattson.

But Mike Solinas, who lives in the Rock Cave community along the Upshur-Lewis County line, said he thinks this is just the beginning of a decline in service for rural residents.

"This is just the first step in privatization of the Postal 'Service' into the Postal 'Business,' " Solinas, 59, said. "I suspect many, especially in rural areas, will miss it more than they realize once it is gone."

Members of the state's congressional delegation also felt the decision would have a negative effect on the state.

"In our rural areas, these postal facilities are more than just places to send and receive mail — they are truly the lifelines of their communities and can be the only way a town is able to stay connected," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in a statement.

"Although the Postal Service must cut back on spending and get its fiscal house in order, cutting the muscle instead of the fat from its budget will not benefit the agency and will harm our communities in West Virginia and across our country," Manchin said.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said Congress has been explicit over the last 30 years in requesting that the Postal Service maintain six-day delivery.

"The Postal Service cannot circumvent the will of the Congress," Rahall said in a statement. "The Postal Service needs to look at other ways to balance its books rather than cutting off rural customers and undermining its public service obligations."  

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said in a statement he continues "to be concerned about actions by the Postal Service that will impact jobs and services in West Virginia, and could diminish its overall competitive advantage."

Rockefeller has urged Postal Service officials in the past to consider several cost containment measures, including cutting executive staff and bonuses and eliminating some rental and excess warehousing space.

He urged them to reconsider those recommendations.

"There is no question that USPS faces financial trouble, and I understand that some cutbacks are needed," Rockefeller said in a statement Wednesday. "Last March, I identified several areas of cost savings to the Postmaster General and again call on him to look at these and other ideas to save money without harming customers and employees."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.


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