Tufts post office to remain open through May

The United States Postal Service (USPS) last month announced a moratorium on all post office closures, including that of the Tufts University Post Office located at 470 Boston Ave., until mid-May.

Originally scheduled for later this month, the potential closures have been postponed in an effort to give Congress an opportunity to pass legislation that would alleviate the USPS financial crisis, according to Dennis Tarmey, a communications specialist for the USPS Greater Boston District. 

“There are a number of bills pending in Congress,” he told the Daily. “If they pass, hopefully they’ll impact the USPS in a positive way.”

The USPS currently faces a budget deficit of just under $10 billion, and reported a $5.1 billion annual shortfall for the year 2011.

The Tufts USPS branch is one of nearly 3,700 post offices nationwide currently being reviewed for closure — including 22 in the greater Boston area — according to Paul Kilduff, general president of Boston Metro American Postal Workers Union. 

During the summer of 2011, the USPS targeted offices for closure based on several criteria, including decreasing revenue figures and proximity to other USPS offices, Tarmey explained.

Tufts University Mail Services in November sent an email to students encouraging them to fill out a postal service customer questionnaire, according to Support Services Manager Sheila Chisholm. The survey was designed to evaluate the need for the Boston Avenue office, one of three the USPS operates within the Medford city limits.

Approximately 2,000 surveys were returned to the Tufts branch by students and Medford residents, she added.

“In terms of what the USPS has reviewed for this specific area, it seems that the Tufts office had the highest number of surveys returned,” Chisholm said. “That was definitely good news.”

The survey results have been compiled into a packet for USPS officials, who will conduct a feasibility study on the post office over the next few months. The packet is being assessed at the district level and will advance to the USPS headquarters in early February, according to Chisholm.  

Chisholm added that Mail Services is exploring ways to ease the transition for students and faculty in case the post office is forced to close.

“We’re looking at providing a service of selling stamps and USPS packaging envelopes by means of JumboCash,” she said.

Tarmey cited a growing reliance on email and other digital forms of communication as the root of the USPS’ financial predicament.

“The mail volume has dropped off 43 billion pieces per year since 2006,” he said.

Mandatory payments to USPS health and retirement systems over the past few fiscal years have also contributed to the deficit, Tarmey added. 

Legislation that would lower these payments and return funds to the mail agency is being debated in Congress this month.

“We need the members of Congress to not only discuss the future of the Postal Service, but to act on it,” Tarmey said.

Kilduff emphasized that the crusade to keep local post offices open has not ceased in light of the five-month moratorium.

“Since day one, we’ve been on a continuous campaign to get the word out to every single community,” he told the Daily.

Town hall meetings and rallies to protest the closures continue to attract residents from across the greater Boston area, he said, adding that many notable congressmen have attended these meetings to discuss the issue. 

Kilduff asked that students and local residents continue to contact their congressmen and encourage them to protect the community post offices.

“The Postal Service is for the American public,” he said. “Even if the offices run at a deficit, they’re not supposed to close. We’re not in the business to make money. We’re in the business to serve the public.”

Although she believes the Tufts community has actively spoken out against the closure, Chisholm knows that the final decision rests solely in the hands of the USPS.

“I think we’ve come together and done as much as we can to make our voices heard,” she said.