Residents in 24 area communities could see a reduction in the hours their post offices are open for business.

Under a "strategy" announced last week by the U.S. Postal Service, the smallest post offices would remain open for business, but with modified retail window hours.

The proposal is a reprieve for many small communities after it was originally announced last July that 3,700 small-town post offices nationwide could be closed as a cost-saving measure for the Postal Service.

In that list of closures, there were five local post offices on the chopping block.

They were Parryville and Junedale in Carbon County, and Mary D, Mahanoy Plane, and Cumbola in Schuylkill County.

Under the new proposal, Parryville, Junedale, Mary D, and Cumbola would all have reduced hours.

Mahanoy Plane Post Office was closed last week because the owner of the building didn't have the lease renewed with the Postal Service.

Among the affected post offices with reduced hours under the proposed list are Coaldale, Andreas, Bowmanstown, and Ashfield.

The plan would keep existing post offices in place, but with modified retail window hours to match customer use. Access to the retail lobby and to P.O. boxes would remain unchanged, and the town's Zip code and community identity would be retained, the Postal Service said in a news release.

If approved, the new strategy would be implemented over a two-year, multiphased approach and would not be completed until September 2014.

Once implementation is completed, the Postal Service estimates savings of a half-billion dollars annually.

"The Postal Service is committed to serving America's communities and providing a responsible and fair approach for our employees and customers," said Megan Brennan, Postal Service Chief Operating Officer.

"The Post Offices in rural America will remain open unless a community has a strong preference for one of the other options. We will not close any of these rural Post Offices without having provided a viable solution."

Statewide, there are 876 post offices slated to have hours reduced.

The Postal Service will provide an opportunity for the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to review this plan prior to making changes.

Community meetings will be conducted to review options in greater detail, said the Postal Service. Communities will be notified by mail of the date, time, and locations of the meetings.

The new option complements existing alternatives, which include:

Ÿ Providing mail delivery service to residents and businesses in the affected community by either rural carrier or highway contract route.

Ÿ Contracting with a local business to create a Village Post Office; and

Ÿ Offering service from a nearby post office.

The Postal Service is also offering a voluntary early retirement incentive for the nation's more than 21,000 non-executive postmasters.