WASHINGTON, May 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday it hopes to keep thousands of rural post offices open while saving money by cutting hours.
The agency had planned to begin shutdowns next week. Officials said as many as 3,700 post offices could be on the chopping block.
The announcement spurred an outcry in thinly populated areas from postal customers and officials, The Wall Street Journal reported. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that in many rural areas residents say the post office is a valuable meeting place where community items are posted on the bulletin board.
"We've listened to our customers in rural America, and we've heard them loud and clear -- they want to keep their post office open," Donahoe said.
Donahoe said the service plans to consult residents in about 13,000 communities to determine the best option. These could include keeping the post office open as few as 2 hours a day, contracting with local businesses like gas stations to provide postal services and merging post offices.