By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
LEEDS — A federal plan that would consolidate mail sorting centers is under consideration by the U.S. Postal Service that could lead to the closure of post offices around the country.
U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro, R-19, hosted an open house Aug. 11 at his Leeds office to meet one-on-one with constituents and local officials and responded to questions about the consolidation plan.
The proposal would make major operational changes that if approved would be implemented in September and continue to roll out into 2024. Opponents to the plan say it could lead to the closure of post offices and cause widespread mail delays.
Molinaro said he opposed the closure of post offices, particularly in rural areas where they often serve as a community hub.
“I am deeply disappointed that the administration at the United States Postal Service is ignorant of and uncaring toward rural and upstate communities and that needs to change,” Molinaro said.
At the present time, there are no post offices in the 19th Congressional District that have been targeted for closure, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen as the plan evolves, he added.
“As of today, we have not identified a NY-19 post office [slated for closure], as far as this consolidation plan goes,” he said.
State Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-41, has also voiced opposition to the possible closure of post offices in her district and reached across the political aisle to pen a letter with Republican state Sen. Rob Rolison, R-39, to U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
If enacted, the plan could also lead to diminished customer services, widespread mail delays and increased safety issues, Hinchey said.
“The United States Postal Service is one of the most essential public goods we have, and we will not stand by while this vital service is threatened, and our Hudson Valley residents and postal workers bear the unacceptable repercussions of a poorly conceived and unnecessarily expedited consolidation plan,” Hinchey said in a statement. “Access to your local post office and timely service, especially for rural and upstate residents, means being connected to things like life-saving medications, Social Security checks, and personal and business correspondence. I will continue fighting to keep our post offices open, and I proudly join my friends in labor in calling for a study of this proposal, including clearly outlined alternatives before changes go into effect.”
Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, attended Molinaro’s open house and agreed post offices are a vital resource, particularly in smaller communities.
“I have always been against post offices closing,” Tague said. “It’s the one last item of convenience that we have in our small rural areas. It’s our last small-town local place where folks always go. Besides that, working in the postal service offers good-paying jobs.”
At the open house last Friday, Molinaro also addressed the proposal by utility company Central Hudson to raise electricity rates by 16% and natural gas by 19%. If approved, the rate increase, which is under review with the Public Service Commission, would go into effect July 1, 2024.
According to the company, the increased rates are needed to address infrastructure needs, recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and aid the company in responding to extreme weather events that impact the power grid.
Molinaro said the increase that is being proposed is not acceptable.
“There are two issues,” Molinaro said. “Certainly, consumers cannot shoulder that kind of increase. Secondly, New York state has to do a better job with appropriate oversight and recognizing the impacts of state legislative decisions that are driving up energy costs. We have this compounding problem that yes, costs have gone up because of national inflation, but they are also going up because of state legislative policy that ignores the financial impacts on consumers. But under no circumstance can rate payers afford any kind of increase of that magnitude.”