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Postal Service plans to move sorting


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Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]

Several U.S. Postal Service employees at the Havre Post Office have concerns about plans to shift sorting of local mail from Havre to the Great Falls post office. Workers fear possible reduction in the quality of service, the possible loss of local postmarks and the impact on the economy if hours are cut at the post office. Al DeSarro of Denver, the Postal Service's media contact for the Montana district, confirmed Friday that, as of Saturday, all mail going to zip codes starting with 595 the post offices from Malta to Chester and south to Big Sandy will be sorted in Great Falls before returning to Havre to be distributed locally and to other post offices. “We're trying to find ways to reduce costs,” DeSarro said, later saying that the change should save tens of thousands of dollars in expenses. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said Saturday that he is watching the situation. “I've been in touch with the Postal Service and will be carefully tracking these developments to ensure that Montanans get the best possible postal service, regardless of where they live,” Rehberg said. “If anyone has concerns about their service, I encourage them To contact my office.” “I've always fought for our post offices here in Montana, and I'm going to be keeping my eye on this,” U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. Said this morning. “The Postal Service doesn't just provide reliable services that allows Montanans to communicate for business, or just to a drop a note, the Postal Service is also a lifeline that creates steady jobs in our rural communities. You can bet I'm fighting to make sure this works for everyone. “And I 'm commi t ted to ensuring the continued financial stability of the Postal Service even in the face of these tough economic times so that they can continue their good work and continue to create opportunities along the Hi-Line and across Montana,” Baucus added. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont, made similar comments this morning, including referring to the planned closure of offices like the one in Black Eagle near Great Falls, a decision the Postal Service reversed after facing opposition. “Post offices and the jobs and services they provide are very important in rural America,” Tester said. “I fought hard to keep the post offices open in Martin City, Black Eagle and Kinsey because all rural communities deserve reliable and efficient postal service.” DeSarro said the Postal Service is facing a $7 billion operating deficit this year. He said the service is taking action all over the country to consolidate and save expense while trying to maintain quality of service. He said, after researching the savings, the shift to sorting the mail in Great Falls is expected to save tens of thousands of dollars. That mostly will be provided by reducing the number of employee hours spent sorting in Havre by about seven to eight hours a day. That will be spread among the six employees now doing that work, he said, and added that additional duties could make up for the loss of hours now spent sorting. The Postal S e r v i c e i s making adjustm e n t s a l l around t h e country to try to offset that d e f i c i t , DeSarro said. Much of the s h o r t fa l l i s coming from a decline in volume, which he a t t r i b u t e d largely to the slump in the U.S. and world economies. The service saw the number of items mailed drop from 203 billion in fiscal year 2008 to 170 billion this year, probably the biggest drop in the history of the Postal Service, he said. “Over the last two years we have saved six billion dollars in our operating costs by doing things like this,” DeSarro said. Three employees at the Havre post office, who requested not to be named, said employees in Havre are concerned about the impact of the shift in sorting, including the chance of lower quality of service. Another of their concerns is that they are essentially in the dark about what is happening, they said aside from saying the switch will happen, the Postal Service has given them no information about how the change will work, what hours or dollars will be saved, and the impact on local service, they said. While having the mail sorted in Great Falls could in no way improve service, having it sorted there and shipped back increases the chance of problems, errors and delays occurr i n g , o n e e m p l o y e e said. DeSarro said t h e Po s t a l Service does no t be l i eve there will be any decline in q u a l i t y o r timeliness of service. “We ' r e n o t going to let s e r v i c e decl ine,” he said. “In Havre and the surrounding area, the customers don't have to have any concerns about their mail service.” Because the mail already is shipped to Great Falls each day to have bar codes, used in the sorting process, put on the mail, there should not be much of a change, DeSarro said. About 26,000 pieces of mail are now sorted at the Havre Post Office each day, he said. Some adjustments in time might have to be made to accommodate the longer processing time, DeSarro said. Any mail that now arrives at its destination the next day, or two days after mailing, should still arrive in the same time frame, DeSarro said. Another concern raised by the Havre workers involved the possible loss of postmarks. For many small communities, they said, such as Havre, Chinook or Rudyard, part of the residents' sense of identity includes the local postmark. If it is postmarked in Great Falls, that will be gone, they said. DeSarro said that change is not planned. After initially saying the mail will be postmarked in Havre, he further researched the question and said all local mail will still be postmarked at the local offices. While the employees emphasized that their greatest concern is about the service and local connection, they said the loss of hours at the Havre post office would probably have some impact on the local economy. DeSarro said the Postal Service will work to reduce the impact as much as possible. While most of the savings will come from spending fewer hours sorting the mail he said some also will come from using the much more sophisticated and automated equipment in Great Falls the Postal Service also will work to find additional duties to give the people now sorting mail in Havre as many hours as possible, he said. People with questions or concerns are directed to contact Rehberg through his Web site at www.rehberg.house.gov or by telephone at 1-888-232- 2626; Baucus through his Web site at www.baucus.senate.gov; or Tester at his Web site at www.tester.senate.gov or at 1-866-554-4403.


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