GADSDEN — The Gadsden Post Office would reduce its hours of service to residents from full to half days as part of budget cuts proposed by the U.S. Postal Service.
A final decision is not due for another week, but the proposal calls for the post office to be open to customers from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Yuma Postmaster Eddie Morgan Jr. said.
Current hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 4:45 p.m.
Postal officials arrived at the proposal after a recent survey of Gadsden residents found most would prefer half-day access to a post office in their own community over traveling to San Luis, Ariz., or Somerton for the same services.
Morgan presented the survey results and the proposed schedule change during a recent meeting with a group of Gadsden residents. He said the U.S. Postal Service is faced with revising operations at rural post offices around the nation as a way to offset declining revenues.
“The Postal Service has lost more than $25 billion since 2007,” he said. “In the last 10 years, the use of first class mail has been reduced by more than 50 percent.”
Over the past two years, the Postal Service has been reviewing postal operations, including those in rural areas, as part of its budget-cutting process. he said.
That review led the agency to set a goal of saving a half-billion dollars annually by revising operations at rural post office branches, among them Gadsden, said Morgan, who headed up the review of offices in the Yuma area.
The Postal Service previously sent out 317 survey forms to Gadsden residents asking their preferences among such options as closing the Gadsden Post Office altogether, reducing its hours of operation, providing postal service from a contracted store or providing home mail delivery. It got survey responses from 90 households, of which 79 opted for keeping the post office open for reduced hours.
Norma Bojorquez, a Gadsden resident since 1979, said a reduction in hours is far preferable to closing the post office and forcing residents to travel to neighboring communities.
“There are a lot people in our community who don't have a car or don't drive,” she said. “The best thing would be to have a post office here.”
For longtime resident Louie Gradias, shuttering the post office would represent not just an inconvenience but something of a loss of identity for Gadsden.
“If they close the post office, we lose one of the few symbols of the town,” he said. “The post office is one of the few places where those of us who live in Gadsden can meet one another. Besides we don't want to be recognized as being part of San Luis or Somerton or Yuma.”
Gradias's wife, Delia, pointedly asked Morgan if postal customers in rural areas were being forced to bear the brunt of the agency's cutbacks. Morgan said belt-tightening is taking place across the board in the Postal Service.
“I understand the emotions and the opinion that perhaps the person high up should sacrifice some dollars, but it is well documented that all of us, from the very top to the bottom, have shared the cuts. Our salaries are frozen. Maybe workers in the private sector are beginning to see additional money, but we aren't.”