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4 Hawaii post offices under threat of closure

By Leila Fujimori

LAST UPDATED: 2:36 a.m. HST, Jul 27, 2011

Four Hawaii post offices are on a list for possible closure, which would result in the possible loss of seven jobs.

However, Duke Gonzales, U.S. Postal Service spokesman, said every attempt will be made to relocate displaced postal employees.

The offices are Uptown Honolulu Post Office at 1170 Nuuanu Ave.; Kapolei Station at 1001 Kamokila Boulevard; Hanamaulu Post Office at 3-4251 Kuhio Highway in Lihue; and Kalaupapa Post Office on Molokai.

The Hawaii postal facilities are among 3,653 local offices, branches and stations being reviewed for possible closure, the Postal Service announced Monday. Post offices in every state except Delaware are up for closure and will be reviewed according to how much money they bring in, how many hours of work are performed there each day and how close they are to other post offices.

Coming under review does not necessarily mean an office will close. The post office announced in January it was reviewing 1,400 offices for closing. So far 280 have been closed, and 200 have finished the review process and will remain open.

That review is still ongoing, Gonzales said, adding that the four Hawaii offices could be closed by January.

In determining which offices should be on the potential closure list, Postal Service headquarters was guided by "customer utilization and revenue and proximity to alternate means of access to postal services, including other post offices, contract postal units and approved postal providers who sell stamps and other services," Gonzales said.

"Most of the post offices being studied for closure have so little foot traffic that workers average less than two hours of work per day, and average sales are less than $50 a day," he said.

There are now 104 postal facilities in Hawaii.

Business was brisk yesterday at the Uptown Honolulu Post Office. Custom­ers said they would hate to see it close, and one said he's writing the Postal Service to keep it open.

"I'd be so sad if they do," said Joanne Palmeri, who ships products to custom­ers worldwide. "I work just down the street. Otherwise, I'd have to walk blocks. Customer service is excellent, and I do a lot of shipping."

"It's just convenient," said photographer Jojo Serina, who lives and works in the area and has a post office box there. "I ship out DVDs for my clients. I like this one because it's not so busy." Others said they'll miss the workers. "I know this gang for over 20 years," said Gertrude Hara, who got to know them by name while working for a nearby insurance company and bringing the mail there daily. "They deal with a lot of people and businesses around here daily. I'm going to miss them. It's so sad."

Gonzales said the last post office was closed eight years ago in Moanalua.

As for service to Molokai's remote Kalaupapa settlement, Gonzales said there are different models of delivering and receiving the mail that could be followed besides a full-service post office. Particularly in rural areas, that could leave a town without a post office — but not necessarily without postal service.

U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, whose district includes three of the four post offices targeted for closure, said comments about potential changes should be sent within the next 60 days to the U.S. Postal Service District Office, 3600 Aolele St., Honolulu 96820.

Once an office is selected for a review, people served by that office will have 60 days to file their comments. If an office is to be closed, they will be able to appeal to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission.

"Mail service is a lifeline for us in Hawaii, as an island state," Hirono added. "We rely on daily and accessible mail service for prescriptions, clothing and entertainment like movies. For many small businesses and families, the U.S. Postal Service is how they conduct their business."

Many of the post offices on the list could be replaced by village post offices in which postal services are offered in local stores, libraries or government offices.

The Postal Service operates 31,871 retail outlets across the country, down from 38,000 a decade ago, but in recent years business has declined sharply as first-class mail moved to the Internet. In addition, the recession resulted in a decline in advertising mail, and the agency lost $8 billion last year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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