Residents of five north central Iowa communities learned Thursday that their once-endangered post offices will remain open with reduced hours at the retail service counters.
Proposed new hours for the post offices in Badger, Clare, Goldfield, Vincent and Woolstock were announced by United States Postal Service officials during a series of sparsely attended public meetings Thursday.
"We're trying to match our work hours to our workload," said Rory Sullivan, the manager of post office operations for communities that have ZIP codes that begin with 504 and 505.
The announcement of new, reduced hours comes about a year after the Postal Service considered a plan to close hundreds of post offices across the country in response to growing financial losses.
"This is really a turnaround," Sullivan told about 10 people at the Badger post office. "We listened to the people. We want to stay in the communities."
The post offices in Clare and Goldfield will experience the biggest reductions in hours. In those communities, the number of hours that the customer service counter is open will be cut in half.
In Goldfield, the counter, called the window by postal workers, is now open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The proposed new hours are 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
The window at the Clare post office is now open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The proposed new hours are noon to 4 p.m.
In Woolstock, the window is open from 11:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. The proposed new hours are 10:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
In Badger, the window at the post office will remain open for four hours a day. However, those hours will be shifted from the morning to the afternoon. The window is now open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The proposed new hours are noon to 4 p.m.
In Vincent, the postal window will be open for 45 minutes less each day. It is now open from 1:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. The new proposed hours are 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Sullivan said the new hours are proposals that could still be changed in the next week. He said the new hours will go into effect around Nov. 17.
He acknowledged that the new hours won't be ideal for every resident of the affected communities.
''We're not going to fit everybody's needs,'' he said.
Public reaction to the new hours was mixed. In Badger, a man responded to the announcement with profanity-laced criticism while in Clare a couple people in the audience said, "four hours is better than no hours."
The proposed new hours do not affect the area of each post office where the mail boxes are located. Sullivan said those areas will generally be open 24 hours a day.
He added that the times at which mail is picked up from the big blue mailboxes outdoors in each community will remain the same.
According to Sullivan, all rural mail carriers pick up the mail for their routes at the processing center in Fort Dodge, so their work won't be changed by the revised hours.
Sullivan said postal managers looked at a year's worth of data to determine the proposed new hours. They also examined the Postal Service's transportation system and community input gathered through surveys.