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Tuesday December 13, 2011 | 05:14 PM

It doesn’t mean Maine post offices are off the danger list, but Rep. Mike Michaud says he’s happy that the Postal Service has agreed not to close any post offices until at least May 15, 2012.

The financially ailing U.S. Postal Services has been considering closing more than 3,000 post offices nationwide to save money, but said in a release today that it would hold off on any closures in the hopes that Congress will pass a financial overhaul package. The Postal Service lost $8 billion last year.

Michaud, D-2nd District, and other Maine lawmakers have protested that some of the possible closures in Maine would hurt rural communities in places like Cliff Island, about 10 miles off the mainland in Portland.

Matinicus Island off Rockland and three other rural locations in Maine recently were taken off the potential closure list, which totaled 34 in Maine when the Postal Service first released its list in July.

But the Postal Service says this is just a short-term delay and that it is prepared to carry out the closures if needed. Previously, local post offices could have begun closing shortly after the first of the year, and processing centers by April.

“The Postal Service will continue all necessary steps required for the review of these facilities during the interim period, including public input meetings,” the Postal Service said in a release announcing the delay. But, “Given the Postal Service’s financial situation and the loss of mail volume, the Postal Service must continue to take all steps necessary to reduce costs and increase revenue.”

Michaud said he is “hopeful that Congress can work with the Postal Service to come up with a plan moving forward that results in as few post office closings as possible.”

(Updated as of 8:30 p.m.: Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said she wrote Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in July expressing her concern about the impact the closure of up to 34 post offices in Maine could have on commerce and reliable mail delivery in rural towns across Maine.

“Today’s announcement that no closures will occur before mid-May 2012 is a partial relief to those communities, but I implore the United States Postal Service to closely review the unique and particular circumstances of these communities to minimize the total closures and thus negative impacts,” Snowe said via email.)

Among those working on legislation is Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

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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