Butler residents were invited to a special town hall meeting recently at the Butler Baptist Church. Organized by the United States Postal Service (USPS), the meeting was called to discuss several changes happening at the Butler Post Office as a part of the new POST Plan. In an effort to cut costs while still preserving and ensuring quality service, the plan will look at many of the nations smaller offices to determine appropriate window service hours and operational procedures to maximize efficiency and cost. More than 13,000 offices are being assessed in total, with 255 in Tennessee and 45 in East Tennessee alone.
USPS officials predict that the POST plan will ultimately save more than $500,000,000 over the next two years, and could go a long way to helping the service get back on its feet after Congress turned over billions of dollars in expenses for postal service pension payments a few years ago. The POST plan will be revaluated in 2014 to determine its level of success and identify any potential changes that need to be made, but in the mean time local operations will be seeing significant changes. Rather than close these community offices the postal service will look at reducing service times from four to six hours depending on demand and location. As part of this realignment Butler residents were sent out a survey several weeks ago, asking them to select a preferred course of action for the Butler office. Options included the realignment of hours to closing the office and moving mail services, including post office boxes, to a nearby office. Additionally there was a possibility of setting up a village post office to be located within a local business, similar to the postal services operation in Laurel Bloomery.
Of the 2,173 surveys mailed out, 566 were returned with an overwhelming majority preferring to keep the current office open with a reduction in hours. Kristi Hamilton, the Acting Manager for Post Office Operations in East Tennessee, was present at the meeting to further discuss the findings and to provide information on changes that will be occurring. The nearest post offices to Butler are Hampton at 12.3 miles away, followed by Mountain City and Elizabethton at 16.2 and 19.5 miles respectively. Because of this distance, Hamilton confirmed that the best fit for the community would be a realignment of hours.
The POST plan provides service hours in two, four, and six-hour increments, with demand in Butler justifying the maximum. As a result, Hamilton confirmed that Butlers new hours would likely be Monday through Friday 8:30-3:30 with lunch from 11:00-12:00 and Saturday hours from 8:00-10:00. The office lobby will still be open 24/7 to allow patrons to pick up and drop off mail, and the blue drop-off box outside will still be picked up as usual.
Although changes in service will likely be small, administrative changes for Butler will be significant. Further reducing operational costs, Butler will no longer have its own postmaster and will now fall under the administration of the Hampton office and its postmaster, Bob Frasier. Long-time employee Tina Ballard will be transferred to a nearby office. In place of the regular staff, the USPS will be opening up two new positions for non-career employment as primary post office clerk and alternate clerk. Both positions will be officially announced and posted for the public, and Ballard will stay in Butler through the training process.
Although administered under Hampton, Butler will still provide the same services for patrons and home deliveries are expected to be unaffected. Hamilton also took questions from the audience following her presentation, with several addressed towards changes for mail carriers. One of the most prominent questions was how the reduction in hours would affect the carriers pick up times to get the mail out to the customers. While Hamilton felt that there wouldnt be any big issues, she did note that final decisions on the changes were still being looked at and might require some shifts in the way the mail was sorted and prepared for delivery.
To read the entire article, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.