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With the declining use of first-class mail, the U.S. Postal Service is considering closing 252 mail processing centers and 3,700 post offices nationwide.
These potential closings are part of the U.S. Postal Service's effort to slash $3 billion in expenses by 2015. However, the cuts, which could include the Richard G. Wilson Processing and Distribution Facility in Cape Girardeau, would largely affect rural communities such as those in Southeast Missouri.
While the Postal Service has focused on costs in its previous statements, we're concerned the actions will lead to a major decline in service. Should the Cape Girardeau processing center close, mail in Southeast Missouri would be shifted to St. Louis. The closing would also eliminate next-day service.
Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson is one member of Congress who opposes the closings. "To me, that's creating inefficiency and reducing the footprint of the Postal Service in our region -- not the kind of savings and service which will get this organization out of the red," Emerson said.
We understand the significant challenges the Postal Service is facing. There has been a drop in mail usage. Email and other electronic means of communication have had much to do with that. And like any private-sector business, the Postal Service must find a way to stay financially solvent. Nevertheless, the agency needs to make the public case that the cost reductions will not lead to a considerable decline in service.
To us, closing the Cape Girardeau mail processing center does not make sense. This facility serves a large geographic area, and to close it would likely cause significant delays and risk further deterioration of postal delivery.
Yesterday an announcement was made that the Postal Service has agreed to postpone any potential closures until May 15. The delay will allow Congress an opportunity to implement cost-saving reforms.
While any closures are now on hold, the agency still plans to conduct its scheduled public meetings -- including one planned for 7 p.m. Dec. 29 at the Osage Centre -- and continue its review of the facilities.
We hope Congress can help facilitate cost-reducing strategies to keep the agency solvent. However, if reforms are deemed insufficient and the agency is convinced that closing these facilities is the best alternative, they need to make their case to the public -- with specifics -- and clearly communicate the cost benefit and service changes.