by Dennis Dalman
The Waite Park mail-processing center will be on the chopping block, after all. It will be consolidated at a Minneapolis location in February 2013.
That news was confirmed May 22 by the Newsleader in an interview with Pete Nowacki, U.S. Postal Service spokesman based in Minneapolis.
Nowacki said the Waite Park facility will continue as a transportation hub and a bulk-mail acceptance center.
“At this point, we don’t know how many employees will be impacted,” Nowacki said.
Two other mail-proessing centers in Minnesota – Mankato and Rochester – will be consolidated next February, Nowacki noted. The three in the state are among 250 nationwide that will be consolidated.
All 250 will be consolidated in stages through 2014, according to U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.
The reason for the consolidations is the U.S. Postal Service’s debt is mounting dramatically. Consolidations are one way the USPS could cut some of its costs, postal officials claim.
The U.S. Congress promised the USPS it would come up with solutions through legislation to help halt the hemorrhage of red ink. The U.S. Senate requested to forego the planned closings and consolidations, at least until legislation is passed. The Senate passed a cost-savings bill, but the U.S. House of Representatives is deadlocked on another postal proposal – one that would require more drastic cuts than the Senate bill.
Donahoe said the consolidations must continue, in light of Congress’s deadlock.
The consolidations, Donahoe said, would reduce postal employees in the first year by 13,000 and cut costs by about $1.2 billion annually. When all of the consolidations are completed, there would be a cut of 28,000 employees and an estimated annual cost-cutting relief of $2.1 billion.
The consolidations are also part of an effort to keep thousands of rural-area post offices open. The closings and consolidations are also an attempt to prevent the possibility overnight delivery of first-class mail items would become two-day or three-day mail delivery. However, if the USPS continues to accrue a bigger debt, the end of overnight mail is a virtual certainty within two or three years. Another drastic option would be the discontinuance of Saturday mail service.
The USPS is expected to be in debt to the tune of $14 billion by the end of 2012. By 2016, if nothing is done, that amount could skyrocket to $21 billion, postal officials said.
The USPS claims the advent of the Internet has had a drastic effect on the viability of mail service, which is funded through postage. As more people use the Internet to communicate, to order goods and services and to pay bills online, the purchases of postage, stamps and other USPS products declined. Another reason for USPS’s financial woes is a government mandate that forces the service to pre-fund its pension program by placing billions of dollars into the fund.