Snail mail slowdown

These days, Smith & Richardson Inc. in Geneva chooses to e-mail invoices to its customers to save postage and time.

"It is more cost effective and more immediate," said Phil Cowen, CEO of Smith & Richardson, which manufactures precision machined parts and provides chaplets for the metal casting industry for an international market.

The company is not alone. The U.S. Postal Service has predicted that nationwide, mail volume likely will plunge to 180 billion pieces by the end of September, down from 212 billion pieces in 2007.

"It's the worst decline I've seen in my 31 years with the postal service," said Don Sommers, postmaster of the St. Charles Post Office.

The total amount of mail the St. Charles Post Office has delivered this year is down 17.6 percent from last year, Sommers said.

He attributed the downturn to the Internet and the sluggish economy.

"All of our volume is down tremendously," Summers said.

As a result, the St. Charles Post Office has cut two city routes and two rural routes in the last year.

In the last year, the Geneva, St. Charles, Wasco and St. Charles post offices have seen an average decline in mail volume of 20 percent, said Tim Ratliff, postal service spokesman for the northern Illinois district.

So far this year, Geneva has delivered 9.2 million letters, down from 11.7 million letters last year, said Morgan Jones, manager of the Geneva Post Office.

Batavia and North Aurora post offices are in central Illinois district. Jose Aguilar, spokesman for the district, said he only had national mail volume numbers and not numbers for individual post offices.

Too much room

The U.S. Postal Service recently announced it wants to sell the 72-year-old Geneva Post Office at 26 S. Third St. in downtown Geneva because the 5,700-square-foot building is too big for its needs. The postal service wants to downsize to 2,000 square feet.

"The plan is to still maintain a downtown presence in Geneva, but to find a smaller location," Ratliff said. "We don't need that much space."

Letter carrier operations moved out of the building 10 years ago, adding to the excess of space. Those operations are housed in the former St. Charles Post Office on Route 64 in St. Charles.

The postal service also wants to sell that carrier annex and move the operations to the current St. Charles Post Office west of Randall Road, Ratliff said.

Ratliff said the postal service has tried to make it more convenient for customers to buy stamps and mail packages, thus reducing their need to walk into a post office.

"We offer free carrier pickup from your home or business," Ratliff said. "Customers can order stamps by phone or mail or through online services. We've made it convenient for them to access our services without leaving their homes."

Five-day-a-week delivery?

With the continued downturn in mail volume, the U.S. Postal Service has asked Congress to consider dropping the requirement that mail be delivered six days a week.

"To drop Saturday mail delivery, there would have to be a change in the law," said U.S. Postal Service spokesman Yvonne Yoerger.

Even if Saturday mail service is dropped, the postal service would still provide express mail and postal box customers could pick up their mail, Ratliff said.

"We would still provide services to customers with minimal disruptions," he said.

Cowen said Smith & Richardson's reliance on mail service continues to decline.

"We receive 1/3 of the mail we received 10 to 15 years ago," he said. "I can remember first starting out with the company, I would have to go to the window at the Geneva Post Office because they couldn't get all our mail in our postal box."