The future of rural post offices across Vermont could bring major changes and slashed service.
"The people that are here, their day either begins or ends at this post office. It's a way of life for these people, and for me," said Charlie Metz of West Newbury.
Dozens of West Newbury residents gathered for a heated discussion Monday night over the future of the local post office. Many argued the building is more than a place to collect mail, calling it the hub of the community.
"This is a community center; you come and see your neighbors and get your mail and hear someone is ill, so there is all of that," says Andrea Nye of West Newbury, who opposes a recent U.S. Postal Service decision to cut hours at the town's branch in half.
The USPS is billions of dollars in the hole and is scaling back to close the gap. West Newbury is one of 148 post offices in Vermont to have retail hours adjusted.
A postal service representative delivered the news to the angry crowd. The proposed hours would include only two hours in the morning and two in the late afternoon. Many raised concerns about how people with jobs will be able to get their mailing needs met. Others worried what the cutbacks could mean for the town.
"It would really hurt the community if we didn't have this. There really wouldn't be a community left," says Robert Atwood of West Newbury.
For the 100-plus rural post offices in Vermont having to scale back operations the decision came down to money. USPS says revenue is measured in each office and the offices with higher profits qualify for longer hours. West Newbury, only qualifies for four hours a day.
Although emotions were running high, many agreed on one thing; they will do what it takes to keep their office open.
"We want to really put in our good effort to get the revenue to get the hours back. That would be, I think, the biggest goal at this point," says Aroline Colberth of West Newbury.
There are more than 450 post offices in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont that will be adjusting hours. The USPS will make a final decision on the hours of the West Newbury post office within 30 days.
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