Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Postal Service: Move won’t cause delays

Agency wants mail processing to go from Twin to Boise

Express Staff Writer

Eileen West sorts mail at the Ketchum Post Office last week. The initial results of a Postal Service study show that moving regional mail processing from Twin Falls to Boise could save $623,000 a year, but postal workers say the move would cause delays. Express photo by Roland Lane

Officials say the U.S. Postal Service could save more than $600,000 a year by moving all mail processing that currently occurs in Twin Falls to Boise, but union workers and customers continue to oppose the move, citing possible delays and layoffs.

The initial results of a service study show that the service could save roughly $623,000 annually by combining mail processing in Twin Falls and Boise, said Brian Sperry, the Postal Service's regional spokesman. Cutting costs is crucial, Sperry said, because the service lost $8.5 billion last year and is on track to lose another $8 billion this year.

"The Postal Service is doing everything under its control to cut costs, but obviously the gap is widening for us," he said. "We obviously need to change."

All mail posted from Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey, Bellevue and 31 other towns is currently processed at the Twin Falls Post Office, even letters mailed from one Ketchum address to another. Moving the mail to Boise would add at least 70 miles to the journey, raising concerns over delays in service.

"We don't know for sure that it's going to delay all of the mail, but we have seen some delays, so we are very concerned," said Donna Meyer, president of the local branch of the American Postal Workers Union.

Meyer also said the road between Boise and Twin Falls, Interstate 83, could close in bad weather, causing further delays.

Sperry said most mail would continue to run on time.

"Local mail delivery will remain the same," he said. "The service standards for 99 percent of the mail would remain the same," meaning that all mail sent to zip codes with 833, 836 and 837 prefixes would still arrive overnight.

Mail to Pocatello and Idaho Falls, however, would take two days.

As for road closures, Sperry said mail currently travels between Boise and Twin Falls without a hitch every day.

"The post office can't afford to base its decisions on those rare occasions [when the road closes]," he said.

Sperry said the Postal Service's financial losses are due to the fact that the volume of first-class mail has declined by 50 percent over the past 10 years, due recently to the recession but also because of the increasing role of online messaging, such as email. As a result, the Postal Service has cut $12 billion in costs, partly by eliminating 110,000 positions over the past four years.

Still, Sperry said, it's not enough. He said the Postal Service is consolidating 100 other mail-processing facilities nationwide and is looking at other cost-saving measures, such as going to a five-day delivery week.

Sperry said a decision is not expected until August or September, when the Postal Service has had time to process the responses it's received at public hearings and through the mail. But whether or not this consolidation goes through, Sperry said, changes in the Postal Service's operations must be made.

"People are fearful of change, but in this case change is necessary," he said. "Business as usual is not possible for the Postal Service."

Katherine Wutz:

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