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Thursday December 01, 2011 | 10:09 AM

Rep. Chellie Pingree is urging Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe not to close the Cliff Island Post Office in Portland.

Pingree, D-1st District, says she hopes the Postal Service will take Cliff Island off its closure list as it did last week with the post office in Matinicus Island off Rockland and three other rural locations in Maine. The financially ailing Postal Service is considering closing more than 3,000 post offices nationwide to save money.

Cliff Island is about 10 miles off the mainland. The Portland City Council in August voted to oppose the closure of the Cliff Island post office, saying that would require residents making a three-hour round-trip ferry ride to mail packages. However, the post office reportedly is considering contracting with a private business to offer mail services on the island if it closes the post office.

But Pingree, who lives on North Haven Island, said that an island post office is a key part of the community. Mailing packages – and receiving packages including prescription drugs - isn’t the only service the post office offers – it’s also the polling place, she noted in a release today.

While a post office is a community gathering place in many communities, on a place like Cliff Island it also is a “safe haven, a pillar to their livelihood, their voting booth, and access point for critical supplies,” Pingree wrote this week in a letter to Donahoe.

Pingree says there are other, more effective options for the Postal Service to save money rather than closing brick and mortar locations, including saving billions of dollars on overpaid pension benefits.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is one of several senators working on Postal Service legislation. Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, agrees with Pingree on the pension issue.

Collins said in September that some 80 percent of the postal service budget lies in labor costs. She said that actuarial studies have found, for instance, “tens of billions of dollars of overpayments by the postal service to federal retirement plans, but the (Obama) administration has blocked the bulk of this repayment.”

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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