[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 152 (Tuesday, August 7, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 46950-46952]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-19201]


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POSTAL SERVICE

39 CFR Part 241


Post Office Organization and Administration: Establishment, 
Classification, and Discontinuance

AGENCY: Postal Service \TM\.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This final rule amends the provisions concerning the 
discontinuance of USPS[supreg]-operated retail facilities to 
incorporate conforming changes in Post Office \TM\ classification and 
terminology.

DATES: Effective date: August 7, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jim Boldt (202) 268-6799.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This final rule makes minor changes to 39 
CFR Part 241. Existing regulations provide that a change in the 
staffing of a Post Office such that it is staffed by another type of 
Postal Service employee is not a discontinuance. See 39 CFR 
241.3(a)(1)(ii). Consistent with this provision, the final rule defines 
a remotely managed Post Office (RMPO) as a Post Office that offers 
part-time window service hours, is staffed by a Postal Service employee 
at the direction of a postmaster, and reports to an Administrative Post 
Office. The final rule also defines a part-time Post Office (PTPO) as a 
Post Office that offers part-time window service hours, is staffed by a 
Postal Service employee, and reports to a district office. In addition, 
the final rule replaces the term ``lowest non-bargaining (EAS) employee 
grade'' with ``lowest level RMPO'' in 39 CFR 241.3(a)(5)(i). This 
change is not substantive, because the hours of service of the lowest 
EAS grade for Post Offices previously in effect corresponds to window 
service hours offered by the lowest level RMPO. Last, the final rule no 
longer includes cost ascertainment grouping classifications in 39 CFR 
241.1. The use of such classification systems is not needed in Part 
241, in light of the introduction of RMPOs and PTPOs.
    Although exempt from the notice and comment rulemaking requirements 
of Title 5 of the United States Code, the Postal Service hereby adopts 
the following changes to 39 CFR Part 241.

List of Subjects in 39 CFR Part 241

    Organization and functions (government agencies), Postal Service.

    Accordingly, 39 CFR Part 241 is amended as follows:

PART 241--RETAIL ORGANIZATION AND ADMINISTRATION: ESTABLISHMENT, 
CLASSIFICATION, AND DISCONTINUANCE

0
1. The authority citation for 39 CFR part 241 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 39 U.S.C. 101, 401, 403, 404, 410, 1001.


0
2. Revise Sec.  241.1 to read as follows:


Sec.  241.1  Post offices.

    Post Offices are established and maintained at locations deemed 
necessary to ensure that regular and effective postal services are 
available to all customers within specified geographic boundaries. A 
Post Office may be operated or staffed by a postmaster or by another 
type of postal employee at the direction of the postmaster, including 
when the postmaster is not physically present. A Remotely Managed Post 
Office (RMPO) is a Post Office that offers part-time window service 
hours, is staffed by a Postal Service employee under the direction of a 
postmaster, and reports to an Administrative Post Office. A Part-Time 
Post Office (PTPO) is a Post Office that offers part-time window 
service hours, is staffed by a Postal Service employee, and reports to 
a district office. Unless otherwise specified, all references to ``Post 
Office'' include RMPOs and PTPOs.

0
3. In Sec.  241.3, revise paragraph (a) to read as follows:


Sec.  241.3  Discontinuance of USPS-operated retail facilities.

    (a) Introduction--(1) Coverage. (i) This section establishes the 
rules governing the Postal Service's consideration of whether an 
existing retail Post Office, station, or branch should be discontinued. 
The rules cover any proposal to:
    (A) Replace a USPS-operated Post Office, station, or branch with a 
contractor-operated retail facility;
    (B) Combine a USPS-operated Post Office, station, or branch with 
another USPS-operated retail facility; or
    (C) Discontinue a USPS-operated Post Office, station, or branch 
without providing a replacement facility.
    (ii) The conversion of a Post Office into, or the replacement of a 
Post Office with, another type of USPS-operated retail facility is not 
a discontinuance action subject to this section. A change in the 
staffing of a Post Office such that it is staffed only part-time by a 
postmaster, or not staffed at all by a postmaster, but rather by 
another type of USPS employee, is not a discontinuance action subject 
to this section.
    (iii) The regulations in this section are mandatory only with 
respect to discontinuance actions for which initial feasibility studies 
have been initiated on or after July 14, 2011. Unless otherwise 
provided by responsible personnel, the rules under Sec.  241.3 as in 
effect prior to July 14, 2011, shall apply to discontinuance actions 
for which initial feasibility studies have been initiated prior to July 
14, 2011. Discontinuance actions pending as of December 1, 2011, that 
pertain to the conversion of a Post Office to another type of USPS-
operated facility are no longer subject to these regulations.
    (2) Definitions. As used in this section, the terms listed below 
are defined as follows:
    (i) ``USPS-operated retail facility'' includes any Postal Service 
employee-operated Post Office, station, or branch, but does not include 
any station, branch, community Post Office, or other retail facility 
operated by a contractor.

[[Page 46951]]

    (ii) ``Contractor-operated retail facility'' includes any station, 
branch, community Post Office, or other facility, including a private 
business, offering retail postal services that is operated by a 
contractor, and does not include any USPS-operated retail facility.
    (iii) ``Closing'' means an action in which Post Office operations 
are permanently discontinued without providing a replacement facility 
in the community.
    (iv) ``Consolidation'' means an action that converts a Postal 
Service-operated retail facility into a contractor-operated retail 
facility. The resulting contractor-operated retail facility reports to 
a Postal Service-operated retail facility.
    (v) ``Discontinuance'' means either a closure or a consolidation.
    (vi) A ``Remotely Managed Post Office'' (RMPO) is a Post Office 
that offers part-time window service hours, is staffed by a Postal 
Service employee at the direction of a postmaster, and reports to an 
Administrative Post Office. Unless otherwise specified, all references 
to ``Post Office'' include RMPOs. The classification of a Post Office 
as an RMPO is not a discontinuance action under this section.
    (vii) A ``Part-Time Post Office'' (PTPO) is a Post Office that 
offers part-time window service hours, is staffed by a Postal Service 
employee, and reports to a district office. Unless otherwise specified, 
all references to ``Post Office'' include PTPOs. The classification of 
a Post Office as a PTPO is not a discontinuance action under this 
section.
    (3) Requirements. A District Manager or the responsible 
Headquarters Vice President, or a designee of either, may initiate a 
feasibility study of a USPS-operated facility for possible 
discontinuance. Any decision to close or consolidate a USPS-operated 
retail facility may be effected only upon the consideration of certain 
factors. These include the effect on the community served; the effect 
on employees of the USPS-operated retail facility; compliance with 
government policy established by law that the Postal Service must 
provide a maximum degree of effective and regular postal services to 
rural areas, communities, and small towns where Post Offices are not 
self-sustaining; the economic savings to the Postal Service; and any 
other factors the Postal Service determines necessary. In addition, 
certain mandatory procedures apply as follows:
    (i) The public must be given 60 days' notice of a proposed action 
to enable the persons served by a USPS-operated retail facility to 
evaluate the proposal and provide comments.
    (ii) After public comments are received and taken into account, any 
final determination to close or consolidate a USPS-operated retail 
facility must be made in writing and must include findings covering all 
the required considerations.
    (iii) The written determination must be made available to persons 
served by the USPS-operated retail facility at least 60 days before the 
discontinuance takes effect.
    (iv) Within the first 30 days after the written determination is 
made available, any person regularly served by a Post Office subject to 
discontinuance may appeal the decision to the Postal Regulatory 
Commission. Where persons regularly served by another type of USPS-
operated retail facility subject to discontinuance file an appeal with 
the Postal Regulatory Commission, the General Counsel reserves the 
right to assert defenses, including the Commission's lack of 
jurisdiction over such appeals. For purposes of determining whether an 
appeal is filed within the 30-day period, receipt by the Commission is 
based on the postmark of the appeal, if sent through the mail, or on 
other appropriate documentation or indicia, if sent through another 
lawful delivery method.
    (v) The Commission may only affirm the Postal Service determination 
or return the matter for further consideration but may not modify the 
determination.
    (vi) The Commission is required to make any determination subject 
to 39 U.S.C. 404(d)(5) within the 120 days specified by statute.
    (vii) The following table summarizes the notice and appeal periods 
defined by statute.

Public Notice of Proposal

60-day notice

Public Notice of Final Determination

30 days for filing any         Wait at least 60 days from first day
 appeal; up to 120 days for     after posting final determination before
 appeal consideration and       closing or consolidating USPS-operated
 decision.                      retail facility.
 

     (4) Additional requirements. This section also includes:
    (i) Rules to ensure that the community's identity as a postal 
address is preserved.
    (ii) Rules for consideration of a proposed discontinuance and for 
its implementation, if approved. These rules are designed to ensure 
that the reasons leading to discontinuance of a particular USPS-
operated retail facility are fully articulated and disclosed at a stage 
that enables customer participation to make a helpful contribution 
toward the final decision.
    (5) Initial feasibility study. A district manager, the responsible 
Headquarters vice president, or a designee of either may initiate a 
feasibility study of a USPS-operated retail facility's potential 
discontinuance, in order to assist the district manager in determining 
whether to proceed with a written proposal to discontinue the facility.
    (i) Permissible circumstances. The initial feasibility study may be 
based upon circumstances including, but not limited to, the following:
    (A) A postmaster vacancy;
    (B) Emergency suspension of the USPS-operated retail facility due 
to cancellation of a lease or rental agreement when no suitable 
alternate quarters are available in the community, a fire or natural 
disaster, irreparable damage when no suitable alternate quarters are 
available in the community, challenge to the sanctity of the mail, or 
similar reasons;
    (C) Earned workload below the minimum established level for the 
lowest level RMPO;
    (D) Insufficient customer demand, evidenced by declining or low 
volume, revenue, revenue units, local business activity, or local 
population trends;
    (E) The availability of reasonable alternate access to postal 
services for the community served by the USPS-operated retail facility; 
or
    (F) The incorporation of two communities into one or other special 
circumstances.
    (ii) Impermissible circumstances. The following circumstances may 
not be used to justify initiation of an initial feasibility study:
    (A) Any claim that the continued operation of a building without 
handicapped modifications is inconsistent with the Architectural 
Barriers Act (42 U.S.C. 4151 et seq.);
    (B) The absence of running water or restroom facilities;
    (C) Compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 
(29 U.S.C. 651 et seq.); or

[[Page 46952]]

    (D) In the absence of any circumstances identified in paragraph 
(a)(5)(i) of this section, the operation of a small Post Office at a 
deficit.
    (iii) Notice to customers. Local management must provide 
notification and questionnaires to customers at the USPS-operated 
retail facility under study. Local management may determine whether 
notification is appropriate through media outlets. In addition, the 
following customers that receive delivery service from the USPS-
operated retail facility must receive notification and questionnaires 
by mail:
    (A) Post Office Box customers at the USPS-operated retail facility 
under study;
    (B) Customers whose delivery carrier is stationed out of the USPS-
operated retail facility under study;
    (C) Customers in the delivery area of the same ZIP Code as the 
retail facility under study, regardless of whether the delivery 
carriers for those customers are stationed out of the retail facility 
under study or out of a nearby facility; and
    (D) Customers whom the retail facility under study serves for 
allied delivery services such as mail pickup.
    (iv) Initial feasibility study due to emergency suspension. 
Wherever possible when an initial feasibility study is to be initiated 
under Sec.  241.3(a)(5)(i)(B) (for example, when it is anticipated that 
a lease or rental agreement will be cancelled with no suitable 
alternate quarters available in the community), responsible personnel 
should initiate the initial feasibility study sufficiently in advance 
of the circumstance prompting the emergency suspension to allow a 
meaningful opportunity for public input to be taken into account. If 
public input cannot be sought sufficiently in advance of the end date 
of the lease or rental agreement, responsible personnel should 
endeavor, to the extent possible, to continue operation of the USPS-
operated retail facility for the duration necessary to gather public 
input and make a more fully informed decision on whether to proceed 
with a discontinuance proposal. Customers formerly served by the 
suspended facility should receive notice under paragraph (a)(5)(iii) of 
this section, including by mail, to the same extent that they would 
have if the facility were not in suspended status at the time of the 
initial feasibility study, proposal, or final determination.
* * * * *

Stanley F. Mires,
Attorney, Legal Policy & Legislative Advice.
[FR Doc. 2012-19201 Filed 8-6-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7710-12-P