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Postal Service proposes closing 13 Tampa Bay offices

Facing staggering financial losses, the U.S. Postal Service is considering closing nearly 1,000 post offices nationwide, including 13 in the Tampa Bay area, officials said Monday.

The 13 locations — including post offices in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando counties — are among 700 candidates nationwide that postal officials will consider closing. The list may grow to 1,000, officials said.

The local offices on the list include the Cleveland Street post office in downtown Clearwater, the post office at MacDill Air Force Base and three post offices on Pinellas beaches: Pass-a-Grille, St. Pete Beach and Clearwater Beach.

The postal service, which receives no tax dollars, faces a potential $7 billion loss this year, despite cost-cutting strategies that have included eliminating staff, restructuring routes, raising the price of stamps by 2 cents and removing collection boxes.

Shuttering hundreds of the postal services's 32,741 branch offices could save the agency billions. The closures would not go into effect until after Sept. 30.

The federal General Accountability Office told postal officials that "every major postal policy, from employee pay, to days of delivery, to the closing of postal facilities must be on the table."

Additionally, Postmaster General John Potter has asked Congress for permission to reduce mail deliveries from six days a week to five.

Congress is considering a bill that would change the way the post office funds its retiree health benefits over the next two years, which could save it $2 billion a year.

Last year, mail volume fell by 9.5 billion pieces to 203 billion pieces and is expected to fall again this year to 175 billion pieces, officials said.

Gary Sawtelle, a spokesman for the Postal Service, could not say how many jobs would be lost locally if the 13 post offices were closed.

He said the agency came up with the list by identifying where multiple branches overlap in urban areas. Post offices in rural areas are not on the list. A month of review will decide which offices remain.

"Each office will be reviewed individually," Sawtelle said in an e-mail, "and (we) will take into account factors such as service standards, cost savings, customer access, real estate values, impact on employees, and long-term needs of the Postal Service."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Postal Service proposes closing 13 Tampa Bay offices 08/03/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 4:11pm]
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