by Michael G. Maness
Chester Post Office will likely reduce hours from the current seven hours to four hours, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Monday through Friday soon.
The U.S. Postal Service hosted a community information meeting Monday night, March 3, at Chester school cafeteria. The USPS's POST Plan had reviewed the Chester Post Office and presented the results of a survey sent out to Chester residents over a month ago.
Lufkin Post Master Bob Austin was there to lead the meeting with Chester Post Master Sarah Bourne. The survey was sent to 397 residents, and 96 responded. Among the responses, the top three results on recommended hours included 28 residents preferring 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., 20 preferring 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and nine preferring 10 a.m. to 2 pm.
Chester Post Office is currently open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Austin said that when one looks at the number of transactions and the amount of revenue earned, "you are looking at a four-hour operating window." Among the operational demands, the mail has to be distributed to the carrier by 10 a.m. and Post Office mail has to be up by 10:30 a.m.
There are a lot of reasons to consider the change. As many know, the USPS is self-sustaining and reduction is a nationwide necessity to keep the service running. If the Chester office was closed, the current closest alternatives are Camden at 9.7 miles, Corrigan at 14.8 miles, and Colmesneil at 15 miles away - none of which are very convenient alternatives.
Austin mentioned that there was the possibility of a Village Post Office, where a local business might decide to sell stamps and such, with the USPS providing the stamps at a reduced rate to allow the business to recover some costs.
Austin said the likelihood of Chester going to the four-hour window of 8 a.m. until 12 noon soon is "very good," the final decision coming from headquarters in Washington D.C.
One resident asked if this was a step in the direction of closure of the Chester Post Office. Austin emphasized that this was not the first step to a potential closure. Rather, this was the POST Plan procedure with no foreseeable closure in the works.
Bourne has plans to stay on as post master after the changes that likely could come about in a week or two.