Cape mail processing center will stay open until at least 2014

Friday, May 18, 2012
In this file photo, retired Cape Girardeau mail carrier Lynn Mattingly holds up a "Save America's Postal Service" sign in view of passing cars on Independence Street in Cape Girardeau Tuesday, September 27, 2011 during a rally held by current and retired employees of the United States Postal Service. Mattingly was a mail carrier for 25 years in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Cape Girardeau's Richard G. Wilson Mail Processing and Distribution Facility will remain open at least through February 2014.

The facility was not among the 140 set to close starting this summer as part of a modified plan to consolidate its mail processing centers announced Thursday by the U.S. Postal Service.

The new two-phase plan calls for up to 140 consolidations to be completed by February 2013 and a second round of 89 consolidations to begin in February 2014.

The Richard G. Wilson Processing and Distribution Facility on Kell Farm Drive in Cape Girardeau on Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. (Fred Lynch)

Cape Girardeau's center was not included in the first round of consolidations. Those facilities selected for the second round have not yet been named by the Postal Service.

"USPS expects to pursue consolidation activities for an additional 89 mail processing locations beginning in 2014 unless its circumstances change," said Richard Watkins, Postal Service spokesman in Kansas City, Mo. "While the Cape Girardeau processing and distribution facility is not included in phase 1, we expect it to be reviewed for phase 2, which will be announced at a later time, probably early next year."

At a news briefing Thursday in Washington, D.C., Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the agency's mail processing network had simply become too big, given declining mail volume and its mounting debt.

As more people choose the Internet to communicate and pay bills, first-class mail volume has declined 50 percent since 2006. The agency has forecast a record $14.1 billion loss by the end of this year. Without changes, it said, annual losses would exceed $21 billion by 2016.

Donahoe stressed that even with its latest moves, the agency still faces mounting losses without congressional action that would give it more leeway to eliminate Saturday mail delivery and reduce health and labor costs.

Once both phases of the consolidations are completed, the Postal Service will have reduced its workforce by 28,000 employees and save about $2.1 billion annually.

According to the Postal Service's feasibility study, consolidating the Cape Girardeau center's operations with St. Louis will save the agency $3.8 million annually. The center currently has about 100 employees.

The Postal Service had previously planned to close 252 of its 461 mail processing centers but agreed to postpone any closures until after May 15 to give Congress time to act.

A postal reform bill passed the Senate but stalled in the House.

Senate Bill 1789 included an amendment sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., containing provisions to prevent rural post office closures, reform federal employee compensation benefits and preserve six-day delivery and current service standards.

"The Postal Service is finally listening to common sense, and that's great news for Missouri jobs, families and businesses, and for folks across rural American who rely on the mail," McCaskill said in a news release Thursday. "I've fought alongside folks on the ground in Missouri to send a clear message that our postal facilities are more than just brick and mortar -- they're the lifeblood of rural America."

Last week, the Postal Service backed off closing hundreds of rural post offices, saying it would cut costs instead by reducing operating hours.

Mark Guilliams, owner of Premium Regional Mail, a direct mail business in Jackson, spoke out during public meetings about how the mail processing center closure would affect his business and his customers. He's relieved that business will continue as usual for now.

"I had a feeling what they were asking for was too extreme trying to close 252 facilities all at once. This is a big win for rural American businesses," he said.

Currently, most bulk mail processed at the Cape Girardeau distribution center for local delivery arrives within one to two days. If that mail were instead processed in St. Louis, Guilliams expects it would take a week or more to reach its destination.

"For our advertisers that use the mail to promote themselves, that could have been a real nightmare for them because we have such a good facility here, they're getting their bulk mail out next day pretty much," Guilliams said.

Under the new distribution center consolidation plan, about 80 percent of the U.S. that currently enjoys overnight first-class mail delivery will continue to do so through the end of next year, After that, barring congressional action, the Postal Service will proceed with new service standards that will slow first class mail and reduce overnight delivery.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

475 Kell Farm Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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