USPS stamps a hold on post office |

USPS stamps a hold on post office

Moving to block massive losses as costs rise and business slips, the U.S. Postal Service is freezing hundreds of new construction and leasing projects across the country.

Will the proposed Meyers post office be one of them?

Lake Tahoe Postmaster Alice Ynchausti can’t say for sure.

“Meyers may be affected,” she said. “But at this point I really do not know.”

All permits were obtained last year from the Postal Service and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to break ground at the proposed site, located at the corner of U.S. Highway 50 and Apache Avenue in Meyers. But construction on the lot, owned by Richard Truesdell, has yet to happen.

“It was all ready to go last summer if the contractor was on the ball,” Ynchausti said. “But he left for the summer. So it was going to fire up this spring, but now I don’t know what’s coming down from the Postal Service and how it’s going to affect the project.”

The construction and leasing freeze affects facilities, like the proposed Meyers post office, the agency has made commitments to but where construction has not yet begun.

Truesdell is funding the construction of the building and negotiating a long-term lease with the Postal Service, which now may be in question.

Meyers may be one of the projected 800 planned projects to be affected.

The freeze comes just two months after the price of first class mail went up a penny to 34 cents.

With rising costs, postal officials now say they face a $2 billion to $3 billion loss this fiscal year. After five years in the black, the post office had a $199 million loss last year.

Postal managers are preparing to apply this summer for another rate increase, to take effect next year.

Among the problems cited by the Postal Service are: wage rate increases larger than the rate of inflation, rising fuel costs, changes in the type of mail being processed, increased competition and forecasts calling for the diversion of some first-class mail to electronic alternatives.

The universal service Americans take for granted could be in jeopardy unless laws regulating operations are changed, said postal governing board members.

“Regrettably our call for an additional rate increase, following so soon after the last one reflects the fact the 30-year-old statutory model that governs the Postal Service is in need of change to protect universal service at affordable rates,” board chairman Robert F. Rider said.

For the past several years postal leaders have sought changes in the law to give them more flexibility in changing rates and services to cope with rising costs and competition. Under current rules it takes nearly a year to change rates.

Postal governors this week sent a letter to President George Bush seeking his assistance in getting legislation to provide them more freedom with rate changes.

Universal service to every address at uniform rates has been a requirement since the nation’s founding.

For years Congress subsidized the service, but when the current system was created in the 1970s the subsidies were phased out. The post office no longer receives taxpayer money for its operations.

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