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Proposed postal rate hike could affect local newspapers

As if newspapers don’t have enough problems with keeping their doors open another year — or day, for that matter — the U.S. Postal Service now wants to penalize lightweight newspapers that fail to pass a new “droop” test.

Currently, periodicals that droop less than 4 inches when tested by dangling off a flat surface are permitted to be mailed in the current standard mail category. The fewer number of pages, the more the periodical will sag or droop. If the new rule were implemented, only 3 inches of droop would be allowed.

If this new hike were permitted, publications that fail to meet the test would be blocked from their present rate categories and elevated to higher rates.

Increases for periodicals within the county could be as high as 78 percent, outside of the county could go up 69 percent, and standard mail publications, 54 percent.

The rationale for the deflection test was originally to ensure compatibility with automated sorting equipment within USPS, but the new proposal alleges that the handling of lightweight, flat mail is a problem with manual handling as well.

We are already doing much of the sorting work for the post office each week by placing our newspapers in marked boxes and bags. We have invested in circulation software and support services to accommodate this process.

Newspapers, like many businesses, are facing the challenges of increased costs. In our case ink, paper, and fuel are just a few of the expenses that have significantly increased in the past years.

With these changes, it makes us wonder if the USPS really wants to be in the mail delivery business. Newspapers probably cause fewer headaches for postal personnel than other articles.

USPS had already announced no intention to increase rates. This proposed action seems to be another attempt to levy higher rates for a select group.

This newspaper is dedicated and determined to deliver local and area news to you every week.

We are also dedicated and determined to do so at a reasonable cost to you, our readers and advertisers.

— susan berg

Last modified Jan. 21, 2010

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