The Postal Service announced the final decision on moving mail processing to the facility in Great Falls after months of studies and public meetings — they’re moving ahead with the change to be completed by the beginning of next year.
By January 2012, some of the processing and distribution of mail will be moved from the post offices in Havre, Helena and Butte to the Mail Processing Center in Great Falls. A similar move, from Miles City to Billings, will be completed by October.
The postal service announced they would begin looking at such service changes earlier this year, after several years of financial shortfall.
“Given the drastic 20 percent decline in mail volume the Postal Service has experienced since 2007, we must take action to reduce the size of our mail processing network, ” Dakotas District Manager John DiPeri said in a release Friday afternoon. “Consolidating operations and placing our people where we need them is necessary if the Postal Service is to remain viable to provide mail service to the nation. ”
DiPeri used to be the manager of the Billings-based Big Sky District, before it was shutdown and consolidated with the Sioux Falls-based Dakotas District in another money-saving move.
According to Al DeSarro, USPS communications officer in Denver, the move will save the Havre branch $24,000 annually and $478,000 annually in all of the state branches combined.
The savings do come with the loss of some personnel in those branches, but DeSarro said that those employees did not lose their jobs.
“Those employees will be reassigned to another position, ” DeSarro said. “Even while we’ll be doing this, we’re not laying anyone off. ”
Throughout the postal system, positions have been left open, to save further funds, and are now being filled by those displaced by the moves.
Sen. Max Baucus did not seem too pleased with the decision in a statement released a few hours after the USPS release.
“I want to see hard numbers proving this move will actually save big bucks for the Postal Service, ” Baucus said. “I also want the bureaucrats in Washington to prove they included public comment from Montanans when making a decision that will affect families and businesses on the ground in our state. We must cut back in tough economic times, but cutting back by cutting jobs won’t improve our economy. ”
The postal service held public hearing in the cities that were looking at consolidation back in April.
At the Havre meeting, the group of officials, including DiPeri and the postmasters of Billings and Havre, told attendees that the consolidation would not have an effect on in-town mail delivery and, in Havre, would not warrant the loss of even a whole position. DiPeri said the change in Havre would cut the equivalent of a half of a full-time employees schedule.
During the meeting Havre-Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Debbie Vandeberg said, “Any impact on Havre is huge. I don’t care if it’s half a job. ”
The postal service insists that the consolidations will not affect anyone’s local mail delivery, except, in some cases, for the better.
“Letters mailed to local addresses will be delivered the next day, the same as before, ” DiPeri said. “There will be no change in current delivery service standards for 98 percent of the mail, and with a service upgrade for the remaining 2 percent. Service to ZIP Code areas 591, 596 and 597 will improve from 2-day to overnight, ” the release continues.
“The significant cost savings and productivity gains expected from this consolidation were deciding factors in making this very difficult decision, ” said DiPeri.