Closure of Everett mail processor could hurt Whatcom County mail service

Mail delivery in Whatcom County could slow down after the U.S. Postal Service announced May 17 it will move ahead with a plan to consolidate up to 140 processing centers, including the closure of the Everett Area Mail Processing Facility that serves northwest Washington.

Postal Service officials said they are cutting costs to hold off bankruptcy.

“We simply do not have the mail volumes to justify the size and capacity of our current mail processing network,” Patrick R. Donahoe, postmaster general and CEO of the Postal Service, said in a press release. “To return to long-term profitability and financial stability while keeping mail affordable, we must match our network to the anticipated workload.”

The consolidations will begin in August and finish by February 2013. Consolidations will not take place between September and December this year, due to the expected volume of high-priority mail for the upcoming election and holiday seasons.

Unless financial circumstances change, or Congress develops a long-term plan, a second phase of 89 consolidation will begin in February 2014.

Processing centers in Olympia and Redmond are also slated for closure.

All mail originally directed to the state’s three closing processors will instead be handled by the center in Seattle.

After the 140 consolidations, the Postal Service will have cut its workforce by about 13,000 employees, generating cost reductions of about $1.2 billion annually.

Congress slow to find solution 

Rep. Rick Larsen, a Democrat representing Washington’s 2nd Congressional District, opposed the move to close the Everett facility, calling it a “misguided decision.”

“Outrageous,” Larsen said in a statement following the Postal Service’s announcement. “I am not convinced that the closure of the Everett facility and consolidation of mail distribution will save the Postal Service money. It will certainly hurt service for tens of thousands of Northwest Washington residents, and those costs have not been adequately considered.”

The congressman ha co-sponsored the Postal Service Protection Act of 2011, which would attempt to aid the Postal Service by eliminating the pre-funding requirements of the its retirement benefits fund while placing restrictions on the closure of postal facilities and service reductions.

The bill was introduced in November 2011, but it has yet to move onto any legislative committee or reach the House or Senate floors.

“The postal workers in Everett deserve a full and fair consideration of these issues before the Postal Service moves forward,” Larsen said. “The Postal Service clearly must take steps to address its budget shortfall, but it should work with Congress as we develop legislation to make sure we keep high-quality mail service instead of moving ahead with drastic closures.”

New standards coming for overnight delivery 

Officials also plan to shrink the geographic reach of overnight service to local areas and enable consolidation activity in 2013. The new rule would further tighten the overnight delivery standard in 2014 and enable further consolidation of the Postal Service mail processing network absent any change to the financial circumstances of the Postal Service.

“We are essentially preserving overnight delivery for first-class mail through the end of 2013, although we are collapsing the distance that we can provide overnight service to the distribution area served by a particular mail processing facility,” Megan Brennan, chief operating officer of the Postal Service, said.

Approximately 80 percent of First-Class Mail will still be delivered overnight, according to Brennan.

Future consolidations or changes in service will be based on the Postal Service’s financial stability.

“Given that the Postal Service is currently projecting a $14 billion net loss in FY2012, and continuing annual losses of this magnitude, we simply cannot justify maintaining our current mail processing footprint,” Donahoe said.

More information is available at the Postal Service’s website: http://bit.ly/xgdi3f

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