Postal customers and city officials had more questions than answers this week after learning the Postal Service is considering "efficiencies" for its Medford and Central Point operations, including possible consolidation.
By year's end, post office officials hope to identify ways of making the two locations more cost-effective, a process that could include anything from selling and relocation, reducing square footage at either site or selling the buildings and leasing space from the new owners.
Postal Service regional spokesperson Peter Hass, of Phoenix, Ariz., said the move was part of an attempt to shore up a $3.8 billion shortfall, posted at the end of last fiscal year.
In 2008, 3,300 post offices were listed for possible consolidation or reduction in available services.
Currently, fewer than 200 remain under consideration for closure or consolidation.
Hass said the Medford and Central Point locations were part of a "separate but similar" process intended to improve efficiency in an agency that is self-funded..
"We get no tax revenues," Hass said. "Our operations are funded entirely from sales and services we provide."
"The bottom line is we have to look for ways to cut our costs and that includes ways to become more efficient with our facilities. With the economy what it is, and with our revenue being down, we have to look for ways to be more efficient."
Medford City Councilman Bob Strosser said he had heard "not a word" about a consolidation.
"We're a large community," Strosser said. "I hope we wouldn't lose that level of service."
Strosser questioned the wisdom of closing either facility. "What would that do to traffic, driving that far to the post office?" he asked.
Central Point resident Lee Verstegen, who was in the Pine Street post office Friday with her 16-month-old granddaughter Bella in tow, said closure of the location "makes no sense."
"Save money?" questioned Verstegen. "As long as it's been here, don't they own the building by now? ... It just doesn't make any sense."
City Administrator Phil Messina said, with a population of 17,000-plus, Central Point has an obvious need for its own post office.
Messina said he contacted various state representatives and planned to submit a letter to regional postal authorities.
Hass said if selling either site becomes a preferred option, the Postal Service would hold public meetings to gather comments.
Sams Valley resident Jim Albright, who sent his last few holiday packages from the Central Point location Friday, said the post office is the closest location for residents in rural areas surrounding the city.
"I come over from Sams Valley and our options are already limited. I think closing this down is not a good idea," Albright said.
"We'd already like (a post office) out near Sams Valley. We'd like another, instead of shutting one down."
He added, "I think there are lots of people from Central Point who already feel like the red-headed stepchild. You'd awaken a hornet's next with that one."
Messina agreed, "If we don't get answers to this, and if they make any changes to their services, up to and including selling and closing their post office, they're going to have 17,000 people going postal."
Anyone who wants to comment on the possible consolidation of the Central Point and Medford post offices can send a letter to: Consumer Affairs, U.S. Postal Service, P.O. Box 4759, Portland OR 97208-4759.