Friday, May 6, 2011

‘Snail mail’ could live up to name

Consolidation may send valley mail to Boise


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Hailey resident Erika Shane mails a letter from the Hailey Post Office. Mail from the valley is currently sorted in Twin Falls before being delivered to valley postal customers. But the Postal Service is currently studying whether it would be cheaper to process valley mail in Boise, which could result in delays for customers.

Waiting for a letter? Wood River Valley residents could have to wait even longer to receive their mail if the results of a U.S. Postal Service study call for shifting mail processing from Twin Falls to Boise.

All mail posted from Ketchum, Hailey, Bellevue and 32 other towns is processed at the Twin Falls post office, even letters that are mailed from one Ketchum address to another.

But with a decline in mail volume, the service is studying whether sending mail from all 833- prefixed zip codes to Boise for sorting would be more efficient.

"The big thing is, it's going to delay the mail," said Donna Meyer, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 179.

Meyer also works as a bulk mail clerk at the Twin Falls mail processing center.

Meyer said the 129-mile trip to Boise would significantly delay the mail, delays she's experienced firsthand already.

"We already send our mail to Boise on Saturdays. Usually if we have complaints on delays, it's on Saturdays," she said.

Some regions could see delays of only a few days, but other regions may see up to a week, she said.

The main problem is that the road between Twin Falls and Boise, U.S. Highway 84, closes in rough winter weather.

"If the road is closed, we have 40 carriers who are on the clock with nothing to sort," Meyer said. "I don't think the postal service has really thought it through."

However, there could be benefits to consolidation. According to the service, the goal of the study is to review mail volume and see if consolidating mail processing in the Boise office would improve efficiency and productivity.

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Barry Carpenter, spokesman for the service, said mail volume has been and will continue to decline.

"Consolidating some postal operations only makes logical business sense given the economic realities," he wrote in a letter to the president of the American Postal Workers Union.

"The reality is, we have an excess of equipment, staff and facilities to process a declining volume of mail."

The service reports that single-piece, first-class mail was down by 6.2 billion pieces nationally last year. Unlike other government agencies, the Postal Service is a self-sufficient business, completely reliant on its revenue.

In 2006, total revenue reached an estimated $72.8 billion, but declining mail volume has resulted in a number of postage hikes since.

Carpenter stressed in the letter that no decision regarding consolidation has been reached, and nothing would be decided until the study has been completed. The public will be allowed to comment on any plans for consolidation before a decision is made.

Calls to Carpenter, the Twin Falls postmaster, the Postal Service area manager and the Postal Service consumer affairs manager for the region to determine the study's release date were not returned as of press time.

A previous study in 2005 found that consolidation of mail processing would not be workable. Meyer said other alternatives could include closing smaller offices or going to a five-day delivery schedule.

"I'm not saying that's a good idea, but that's a way they could save some fuel costs," she said.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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