Post office changes routes in recession
So like any business, it's tightening its budget and increasing efficiency, Janesville Postmaster Jon Buchholz said.
The changes include consolidating routes and not filling open positions, but Buchholz doesn't expect extra strain on the post office or its employees, he said.
The amount of mail coming through the post office had been dropping for years as people discovered e-mail and online bill paying, Buchholz said. But that steady decline turned into a sharp drop-off in the last two years, he said.
The biggest drop came from credit card, bank and mortgage companies that stopped mailing offers as credit tightened.
"When the banking businesses don't mail and the real estate people don't mail, that really affects our business," Buchholz said.
In response, the post office hasn't been filling open positions for more than a year, said Buchholz, who assumed his position in January. The office has consolidated and adjusted some routes, dropping from 48 or 49 routes last year to 44 now, he said.
Buchholz wasn't sure how many positions have been left open this year. The office has not laid off any employees, he said. He doesn't believe the consolidations have created more overtime, though the office has been short-staffed recently because of illness.
The consolidations have changed when some people get their mail, but the office hasn't received many complaints, he said.
"They understand what we're doing," he said. "Unfortunately, somebody's got to be the last on someone's route."
The post office's busiest time of year is fast approaching, but Buchholz thinks the reduced staff can handle the workload. He doesn't expect to see as much holiday mail as last year.
"And that wasn't very good then," he said.
Buchholz expects the hiring freeze to remain in place for the foreseeable future, he said.
Local post offices have considered other ways to increase efficiency this year, as well. Last winter, Clinton's mail carriers started delivering mail out of the Beloit post office, and Orfordville carriers started to work out of the Brodhead office.
The federal office considered delivering Milton's mail out of Janesville, but Buchholz believes that's off the table for now.
"As far as I know, that's kind of a non-issue at this point," he said.