Postal Service puts hold on processing centers closuresMail-processing facilities in Huron, Rapid City get reprieve along with 80 rural post offices in South Dakota. Sen. Johnson was among 20 senators pressing for the moratorium. Rep. Noem supports it.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
The U.S. Postal Service will not close any post office or mail processing facility until May 15, at the earliest.
This announcement came less than 24 hours after more than 20 senators, including Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., requested the Postal Service delay any action on its proposed closures until Congress can attempt to pass other reforms that would help return the service to financial stability.
“I welcome the Postal Service’s decision to put in place a five-month moratorium,” Johnson said in a press release. “I will continue to fight to ensure the Postal Service provides quality service to rural America because it is incredibly important to South Dakota’s way of life and our state’s economy.”
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D. had also shown her support for the senators’ plan.
In a news release Tuesday, the Postal Service said it would continue reviewing facilities for potential consolidation and holding public input meetings during the moratorium.
Postal Service officials will still hold a public meeting in Huron at 7 p.m. on Dec. 27 at the Huron Event Center, to explain reasons why the Dakota Central Processing and Distribution Center could be closed and to hear any questions or concerns the public may have before making their final decision.
The study found closing the facility would save the Postal Service approximately $2.2 million annually by eliminating personnel and equipment at the Huron facility.
“It allows us to do more processing with fewer employees,” said Postal Service spokesperson Pete Nowacki.
The Postal Service would be able to save money by eliminating some postal transportation routes as well, Nowacki said.
The study also revealed that if Dakota Central’s services were moved to the mail-processing facility in Sioux Falls it would likely mean 14 positions would be lost in the transition. Those Postal Service employees would have to be reassigned to another facility in accordance with their collective bargaining agreements.
The Postal Service’s proposal to close its facility in Huron would require a change in first-class mail standards to two- to three-day delivery.
Using an example, Nowacki showed how mail delivery would change under this new proposal.
A letter being delivered from one Mitchell address to another, currently delivered overnight, would change to two-day service under this proposal, he explained. A letter going from Mitchell to Los Angeles is currently three-day service and would remain as such.
“This is what we would have to do to put this and the other 251 proposals being considered nationwide into place,” Nowacki said.
The Postal Service is looking at closing and moving the services of 252 of more than 500 of its processing centers with hopes of saving more than $3 billion annually.
The time of day mail would be delivered would not change under this proposal, but pickup times at collection boxes could be affected.
Nowacki said he was not certain what would be done with the building that currently houses the Huron facility, but thought it would be discussed at the upcoming meeting.
In July, the Postal Service decided mail processing centers in Pierre and Aberdeen would be moved to Huron, but those services would now be moved to Sioux Falls if the Huron facility is closed.
Shutting down mail processing centers like the one in Huron is only part of the Postal Service’s plan to save itself from financial ruin after running a $5.1 billion deficit for the 2011 fiscal year. It now faces default on a $5.5 billion payment to fund healthcare for its retirees. Hoping to find $20 billion in savings by 2015, the Postal Service began taking steps to consolidate facilities nationwide to cut operating costs.
The Postal Service is in the process of reviewing 3,700 rural post offices — 80 in South Dakota — for potential closure.