U.S. Postal Service plea troubles folks in Pascagoula

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Saturday mail service is part of a way of life in Pascagoula.  Just ask some of the weekend regulars at the new post office.

"Every Saturday," said Mary Kitchens of her post office routine. "I come every Saturday."

Ed Brister agrees. He runs his own business, so he depends on the U.S. Postal Service, but he rarely has time to send things off until Saturday.

"Every Saturday almost," Brister said.  "Unless I'm out of town."

And it's no coincidence. Much of the Saturday crowd just can't make it any other day of the week.

"A lot of people can't get here during the week, you know," said Kitchens.  "And Saturday, a lot of people are off, and they can come and mail packages and get their mail."

"Saturday for me is the main day I get out there and get my mail sent off," Tijuana Kimble said.

It looks like these Saturday mailers could have to change their schedules.  Basically, the U.S. Postal Service is in a financial crisis of its own, because of a reduction in volume. By September of 2008, traffic was down by 9 billion pieces compared to the year before.

Now that Postmaster General John Potter has asked Congress to drop the six day a week delivery requirement, it's possible that weekend mail service could become a casualty of the recession.

Officials haven't released which day they would pull from their normal mail service, but say they would find a day with the lightest mail traffic. That means either Saturday or Tuesday would be the most likely candidates.

It's not time to start rescheduling yet though. U.S. Postal Service Officials say dropping the day would be a measure of last resort. They would prefer for Congress to consider allowing some flexibility on pre-paid employee retirement health benefits.

The U.S. Postal Service is the only government agency required to make these payments so far in advance. They also say most companies don't pay the same types of benefits. They believe if Congress grants them leniency on the timeline for paying such benefits, they wont have to cut service, even as the economy continues to deteriorate.

Many Pascagoula residents are glad the postal service is making six day a week mail a priority.

"I just think it's important," said Kitchens. "We don't need to go back to the dark ages, we need to move forward."

But they're ready for whatever may come in the next year.

"I feel like they do a very good job with the money that they do have," Brister said.  "And if they had to close on Saturday, I'd be willing to accept that."

Potter projects the Postal Service could lose up to six billion dollars this year if they don't take action now. No word on when the final decision will be made.