Here’s at least one area where the U.S. Postal Service is showing some serious growth: The number of appeals of post office closings.
From 2007 to 2009, there were exactly two such appeals. As of mid-May, the year-to-date total for fiscal 2012 was 126, or well above the 103 appeals filed in all of 2011, according to a new joint report from the inspectors general for the Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission.
The increases shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that the Postal Service has ramped up its efforts to get rid of under-performing P.O.’s. The tally for closures this year (also as of mid-May) stood at 537, almost four times the number in 2010.
Anyone served by a post office targeted for demise can appeal to the PRC within 30 days of a final USPS decision. The commission can then uphold the closing, send the case back to the Postal Service for reconsideration, or dismiss the appeal on the grounds that it was filed late or for some other technical reason.
Perhaps to the relief of PRC staff, the Postal Service in May backed off a plan that could have resulted in more than 3,000 additional post office shutdowns. Instead, after getting an earful from members of Congress, USPS officials are opting to cut customer service “window” hours at many post offices.
The paperwork in closing appeals can be voluminous. Given the cost of legal services (even those provided by in-house attorneys), the expense of processing individual cases appears surprisingly low. Between the Postal Service and PRC, the average cost ranges from about $3,171 to $3,861, the report found. But the Postal Service, recognizing that it lacks the manpower to handle the estimated workload, has issued a statement of work for a one-year litigation support contract. Exactly how much it plans to pay, though, is unclear. The contract’s “not-to-exceed” value was blacked out of the publicly released version of the report.