WASHINGTON – Rep. Scott Tipton says it is only fair that rural post offices will have their hours of operation reduced rather than being shuttered altogether under a proposal to reform the U.S. Postal Service. After all, the Cortez Republican notes, rural communities attach more importance to and are less serviced by the post office than their urban counterparts.
“For rural communities, the post office is the glue that holds everything together. Some people have to drive 10 to 20 miles to go to the post office. But in some metropolitan areas, you have only five or six blocks,” Tipton said in an interview last week.
Tipton, who has 77 rural post offices in his sprawling western district, endorsed a modified reform proposal that Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahue released publicly last week. The plan would keep open nearly all of the 3,700 rural post offices that had been scheduled for closure or consolidation under a proposal last July.
In addition to offering buyouts to 21,000 Postal Service employees, it would shorten the hours of postal service operations from eight hours to as few as two hours a day. Combined, the two proposals would save an estimated $1 billion over two years, although the figure is not sufficient to plug an estimated $20 billion shortfall.
But Tipton is the lone Colorado House Republican who endorses the modified plan. His GOP colleagues criticize it for financial and logistical reasons.
Rep. Cory Gardner of Fort Collins says the provision to shorten post office hours is a “logistical nightmare. I don’t see how this solves anything, other than that the Postal Service is the atomic clock.” Gardner noted that postal employees in his district will struggle under the plan, as they will be forced to work a two-hour or four-hour shift instead of a traditional one, need to make long commutes to work, and uncertain of their pension and health benefits.
Rep. Mike Coffman of Lone Tree also denounces the proposed modified reforms. His ire is less at the Postal Service and more at his main employer. “I think it’s incredible that the Postal Service wants to do reform to save money and Congress blocks them. I think it’s just stunning and hypocritical that members of Congress would do this when the Postal Service is drowning in red ink,” he said in an interview last week.
Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs used milder words to express his disappointment with the modified plan. “No one wants to see a post office shut down, but if there are ways to save money, we need to look into that,” he said in an interview last week.
Colorado’s House Democrats — Diana DeGette of Denver, Jared Polis of Boulder, and Ed Perlmutter of Lakewood — were unavailable for comment.
With the Senate having voted on a restructuring of the Postal Service last month, the House of Representatives prepares for its vote, which could come as soon as this week.