By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“Cutting two hours a day here is a bad decision,” said Linda Goodman of Marrowstone Island.
“It doesn’t save a lot of money and creates a hardship for a small community like ours.”
Postal Service representatives Elizabeth Jenkins and Doreen Karoly spoke outside the store during a drizzle that thinned the crowd considerably by the end of the 75-minute presentation Tuesday.
“We don’t want to shut down the Nordland office. I want to make that very, very clear,” Jenkins said.
“We do want to reduce the window hours from eight hours to six hours” each day the office is open.
While both Jenkins and the public repeatedly referred to a two-hour decrease, the actual lost time is 90 minutes, according to Postmaster Richard Tracer.
The post office window is open now for 7½ hours each weekday. Under the new plan, it will be open for six hours weekdays.
Jenkins said the formal posting of reduced hours could occur within a week. Once posted, the new hours would come into effect in 30 days, she said.
In February, the Postal Service announced it would discontinue Saturday home delivery in August because of rising costs and falling profits.
The Nordland Post Office is among rural post offices — including Joyce, Sekiu and LaPush on the North Olympic Peninsula — that will have daily retail counter-service hours cut by two to four hours a day.
Nationwide, the change is to be completed by September 2014.
Community meetings have been held at Joyce and LaPush. No meeting has been set in Sekiu.
Currently, the Nordland Post Office is open from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays.
The new hours are to be from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with Saturday hours unchanged.
The Postal Service distributed a survey earlier that asks postal patrons to choose from one of four options: decrease daily hours, close the post office and provide services through carriers, farm out the operation of the post office to a private contractor or close the post office and route service to another post office.
Jenkins said 257 people responded to the survey in Nordland, with 93 percent of respondents favoring the cutback in hours out of the choices offered.
After the survey was distributed, residents expressed disappointment that the option to keep the current hours was not a choice and collected signatures of more than 400 who want the hours to stay the same.
That won’t happen, Jenkins said, adding that while the data gathered at the meeting would be considered, the decision to cut back hours already was made.
“The option we would like, of course, is to leave it the way it is,” said Marrowstone resident Chip Hoins.
“You look around here, and there are a lot of people who can’t operate with that six-hour window of opportunity; they work eight, 10, 12 hours a day, and it’s very difficult for them to get here during those hours.”
Postal customers can compensate for the lost hours with the use of online sources, Jenkins said, adding that postage can be printed and mail delivery scheduled on home computers.
Said resident Lois Twelves: “There are a lot of people here who are in their 80s and 90s and find it very difficult to use a computer.
“We have nothing to do but go to the post office for help,” she added.
Several people asked Jenkins why the Postal Service would cut hours in Nordland when it is profitable.
Jenkins said the decision to cut hours was based on workload rather than revenue. She could not supply specific workload statistics for the Nordland post office.
“Like many businesses today, the post office is stressed,” Jenkins said.
“There is not just one solution, and to keep viable, we have decided to realign retail hours, and Nordland is one place where we have decided to do this.”
Jefferson County Commissioner David Sullivan approached Jenkins after the meeting with an offer to assemble a citizen committee that could develop “a Nordland-specific solution” to the cuts.
“There is room to do that. This is a very creative community, and they will work together to protect what they care about,” Sullivan said.
“They care about this store,” he added. “It’s a critical part of this community that is a critical part of island life.”
Sullivan said he offered to help Jenkins get people together, work out answers to people’s questions and come up with a solution.
“I hope she gets back to me on this,” Sullivan said.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.