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Isle senators voice worries about ending Saturday mail

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    U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka want to hold public hearings in Hawaii to study what the impact of stopping Saturday mail deliveries would be. Here, postal customers were reflected in a mirror while they waited in line yesterday at the downtown post office.

With the U.S. Postal Service proposing to cut costs by reducing mail delivery and processing to five days a week, Myriam Hafele said she was hopeful that such moves would not lead to post offices closing on weekends.

"I like to have my post office," the Punchbowl resident said after buying stamps at the downtown station.

Hafele, 55, said she agreed with an effort by U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, along with their Alaska colleagues, to get public field hearings held in their respective states to study the effects before any such move is completed.

The U.S. Postal Service’s cost-saving proposal to do away with Saturday mail delivery has been called one of the "most significant changes" ever presented to the Postal Regulatory Commission, the federal body with the authority on the decision.

As Americans turn more and more from paper to electronic communications, officials say the Postal Service faces a projected loss of $7 billion this year alone.

But stopping Saturday deliveries could have greater consequences in Hawaii and Alaska, the senators wrote in a letter to Ruth Y. Goldway, chairwoman of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

"As you likely are aware, mail delivery in Alaska and Hawaii is very different from the other 48 states, as is our constituents’ reliance on that mail delivery for basic and necessary items," states the letter, signed by Inouye, Akaka and Alaska U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich.

The commission already has held hearings on the proposal in Las Vegas; Sacramento, Calif.; Dallas; and Memphis, Tenn., with hearings set for later this month in Chicago; Rapid City, S.D.; and Buffalo, N.Y.

But information gleaned from hearings in the Lower 48 "will bear little relevance to the concerns of the people of Alaska and Hawaii. Such concerns include the likely degradation of efficient and timely delivery of medication, food, water and other necessities," the senators state.

The commission has invited the public to submit testimony on the proposal at its website,

"If any such hearings are held in Hawaii, we’ll be prepared to participate and present our case in favor of the proposal," said Duke Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Postal Service in Hawaii.

Postmaster General John Potter has said he would like to see delivery scaled back by next year, noting it would not mean the closure of post offices on that day.

Hafele hopes the Postal Regulatory Commission holds hearings in Hawaii.

After buying stamps from a self-service machine at the downtown post office, Pam Chambers said she would be OK with scaled-back operations.

"I look forward to getting my mail, but if it’s going to keep the cost of postage and mailing down to remove Saturday, I am for that," the Kakaako resident said. "We have lots of holidays where we don’t get our mail and the earth doesn’t come to a stop, so I think two days in a row without mail is going to be OK."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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