By Ibby Caputo
Dec. 13, 2011
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — “Default” is becoming a very common, dirty word. In this story, it applies to the cash-strapped United States Postal Service, which is facing bankruptcy.
“We’re on the brink of insolvency. Everything is on the table,” said Dennis Tarmey, the spokesperson for the USPS in Greater Boston. In Tarmey’s 30-year career, he’s been a clerk, mail carrier, postmaster and a labor relations specialist.
“I’d like nothing better than to say our organization was healthy and thriving, but to do so would be irresponsible on my part,” he said.
Starting in January, it will cost you another penny to mail a letter. The rate is up to 45 cents. But it won’t be enough to bail out the USPS.
The post office is trying to reduce its operating costs by $20 billion in the next few years. It thinks it can save $3 billion by closing more than half of the mail processing plants in the nation and slowing down delivery service by a day, which means your first-class delivery service might more aptly be considered second-class.
We’re rethinking the traditional post office. That’s a message on the postal service website. Yes, online… ironic since the web is making traditional correspondence through the post office obsolete.
Dean Granholm is a post office vice president. In an online multimedia presentation, he made the case for the proposed closing of nearly 3,700 post offices nationwide, 43 of which are in Massachusetts.
“Many communities across America have several post offices in close proximity to one another,” Granholm said in the online video. “In many cases, only one of those post offices receives adequate foot traffic. It’s easy to see why eliminating some of these post offices makes a lot of economic sense.”
Possibly closing in Cambridge: MIT
At the post office in the basement of the student center at MIT — one of two post offices being considered for closure in Cambridge — many students were unaware of the potential closing. Some expressed indifference. Some had received a notice from the post office asking for input about the possible closure.
Jenna Berkowitz, who fundraises with the alumni association at MIT, said she filled out the survey but never sent it in. “I care, but not that much, because I do understand it’s not worth it to them to have the one employee there and not really doing much,” she said.
Possibly closing in Cambridge: Inman Square
The feeling was different at the Inman Square post office — the second location in Cambridge that may be closed.
“Every time I’m in here it’s very busy, so I don’t know why they think it’s not producing,” said Stacy Walker of Stoneham, Mass. Walker has a property management business in the neighborhood.
She was upset about the potential closing. “I have all of my business mail sent here. It would be a hassle to change everything over. I don’t know where I would go that’s more convenient,” she said. There’s a large post office in Central Square, but “there’s no parking.”
Does public opinion matter?
Mike Foley, the discontinuance coordinator for greater Boston, said that most communities are in favor of keeping their local post office.
Foley is responsible for compiling public feedback on the potential closing of local post offices through community meetings and surveys. “Does that carry weight based on how many people responded? My answer is I don’t know,” he said.
At a Cambridge City Council Meeting in the fall, Bob Waterhouse, a clerk at the Central Square post office, offered a warning to the council and residents.
“The postal service is one that many of us take for granted and will not realize its benefit until it’s too late. Only then will we turn back and say I wish I had done more,” he said.
The feedback phase in Cambridge ends on Jan. 11. A decision is expected soon after.
GREATER BOSTON: POST OFFICE CLOSURES