Many small-town post offices in East Central Illinois — and across the country — would have shorter window hours, under a plan announced Wednesday by the U.S. Postal Service.
Most of those offices are open eight hours a day, but under the new strategy, some would be open only two, four or six hours a day.
The Postal Service had earlier proposed closing some of its smallest post offices. But after Congress intervened, the Postal Service put a moratorium on closings through May 15 — and offered the reduced-hours plan, affecting many more post offices, as an alternative.
Last July, the Postal Service proposed closing about 3,700 post offices. The new strategy would reduce hours at about 13,000 post offices, including many not originally on the closure list.
Next week, the Postal Service is expected to announce changes to its plan to close up to 252 mail-processing centers.
The new reduced-hours plan does not affect post offices or postal stations in larger cities, said Postal Service spokeswoman Valerie Welsch.
As a result, places such as Champaign-Urbana, Danville and Rantoul are not affected by the plan.
Under the plan, retail window hours would be modified but access to the retail lobby and to post office boxes would remain unchanged.
The strategy would be phased in over two years and not be completed until September 2014. The Postal Service figures it could save a half-billion dollars a year.
The plan is expected to be reviewed by the Postal Regulatory Commission, and community meetings would be held to review options.
In lieu of reduced hours, a community could express preferences for other alternatives, including:
— Mail delivery service by rural carrier or highway contract route.
— Contracting with a business to create a "village post office" selling select postal products and services and sometimes offering post office boxes.
— Getting service from another nearby post office.
Survey research done for the post office indicates the public prefers reduced hours to the other alternatives.
Here's how area communities would be affected by the reduced-hours plan:
Reduction from 8 to 6 hours
Ashmore, Bement, Buckley, Chrisman, Crescent City, Gifford, Homer, Kansas, Lovington, Mansfield, Newman, Ogden, Onarga, Piper City, Potomac, Rankin, Ridge Farm, Sidney, Thomasboro.
Reduction from 8 to 4 hours
Allerton, Alvin, Arrowsmith, Bellflower, Bismarck, Broadlands, Brocton, Camargo, Cisco, Danforth, DeLand, Dewey, Ellsworth, Fairmount, Fithian, Hammond, Hindsboro, Humboldt, Hume, Indianola, Iroquois, Ivesdale, Loda, Ludlow, Melvin, Penfield, Pesotum, Roberts, Royal, Sadorus, Saybrook, Seymour, Sibley, Sidell, Thawville, Weldon, Wellington, White Heath.
Reduction from 8 to 2 hours
Armstrong, Bondville, DeWitt, Elliott, Foosland, Henning, LaPlace, Longview, Metcalf, Muncie, Redmon, Vermilion.
Reduction from 6 to 2 hours
Collison, East Lynn.
Reduction from 4 to 2 hours
Goodwine, Murdock, Stockland.