UNICOI — Like thousands of post offices across the country, retail hours at the Unicoi Post Office could soon be reduced.
More than 20 members of the community were on hand for a public meeting Wednesday at the Unicoi Drive post office to hear more about the results of a survey previously sent to Unicoi residents that sought input on what direction the U.S. Postal Service should take with the Unicoi Post Office.
Kristi Hamilton, manager of post office operations for East Tennessee, said 2,392 surveys were sent by the USPS to Unicoi residents about a month ago, with 493 responding. Of those responding, 396, or 80 percent of responders, favored a realignment of hours at the post office. Twenty-three of those responded favored a rural carrier, and 22 responders favored either utilizing a nearby business to serve as a “village post office” or having the community use a nearby post office.
After reviewing the surveys, Hamilton said the USPS is proposing Monday through Friday retail window hours at the post office of 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., with lunch from noon to 1 p.m. This would cut the daily hours from eight to six. Saturday hours of 8:30-10:30 a.m. would remain unchanged.
Hamilton said there could be some slight changes to these proposed hours by the time a final decision on the office’s retail hours is made. The pickup time of 3:45 p.m. and access to delivery receptacles will not change.
In July 2011, the USPS announced it was studying approximately 3,700 post offices across the nation for possible closure due to financial struggles. Following public opposition to the closure of these post offices, the USPS announced its “Post Plan” last May, which is a two-year strategy to keep smaller, rural post offices open by reducing daily retail window hours at each.
As part of the plan, the USPS released a list of around 13,000 offices at which retail hours could be reduced. Other area post offices, including the Flag Pond Post Office and post offices in Butler and Watauga, were included on this list.
Hamilton said the USPS will continue to accept surveys and, within the next couple of weeks, will make a final decision regarding the retail hours at the Unicoi Post Office. She said within 30 days, a notification date for the office’s new retail hours will be posted at the post office.