Mail processing center will close in two phases

Thursday, July 25, 2013
Ceneca Woods mails a letter Monday, Dec. 5, 2011 outside the Richard G. Wilson Processing and Distribution Facility on Kell Farm Drive in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

The movement of some operations from the Richard G. Wilson Processing and Distribution Facility in Cape Girardeau to a larger facility in St. Louis soon will begin, but the local facility has until later this year before it closes its doors completely.

U.S. Postal Service regional spokesman Richard Watkins in March said the Cape Girardeau facility was one of about 55 sites slated to close this year. For now, he said the facility is operating on a tentative timeline until St. Louis is prepared to take on all the mail coming from Southeast Missouri.

"There are a lot of moving parts, which is why we hesitate to put a fixed date on these things," he said. "When I say 'moving parts,' I mean transportation, dispatch times and collection times. ... It's easy to forget that one process impacts a lot of operations."

Watkins said originating mail operations, which is the mail collected in the Southeast Missouri area, will be moved to St. Louis later this summer. Destinating mail operations, mail from other parts of the country delivered to the area, will remain in Cape Girardeau, he said, and there is no timetable on when these operations will be moved.

In June, changes for mail collection box pickup times were posted in the area and on the 32 collection boxes in Cape Girardeau. Watkins said the pickup times will vary, based on the location of the collection box, but the latest time will be 4 p.m., at the processing facility.

Greg Davidson, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 4088, works at the local facility. He said Saturday was the target date for many changes, but it was difficult to tell if things were "still on track."

" ... It really depends on when St. Louis is ready to take our mail," he said. "They could pull the trigger and say 'let's go,' or they could say 'no, we're not ready.' It's all up to them."

Davidson said there was some concern that moving all local operations to St. Louis would be difficult for the facility to handle. It already has consolidated with facilities in Carbondale, Ill., and Centralia, Ill.

"Before that, they were having a really tough time with their own mail and now they're trying to process mail from all these other areas," Davidson said.

Watkins said the move is a complex process, which is why the Postal Service is hesitant to make any official deadlines.

"St. Louis is a large mail-processing center," he said. "Of course, we've made accommodations to handle the additional workload, but we want to make sure everything is running as it should to get the turnaround for one-day deliveries."

Davidson said Sunday mail already is being processed in St. Louis and he and other local facility workers already have noticed some delays. Another concern among Davidson and his colleagues is job security, as operations continue to be moved out of Cape Girardeau. The facility employs about 100 people. Watkins said the move will result in no layoffs, just a few changes in responsibilities for some employees.

"We will find landing spots for our employees," he said. "Some may be moved to the processing center in St. Louis or remain in the area, just with different responsibilities or working different days or different shifts."

Watkins also said the Postal Service plans to work with union groups as changes are being made.

For those willing to make the hour-and-a-half commute to St. Louis, Watkins said he believes more jobs will open up there as the facility takes on more mail from Southeast Missouri. Those who are more comfortable remaining local would likely be given jobs in new positions.

"Those that want to stay in the area may be moved to letter carriers," he said. "There is a need there because the network for our letter carriers continues to expand, even as mail volume declines."

Watkins said the Cape Girardeau facility is scheduled to close later this year, but no exact date has been set.

The changing collection times and consolidating facilities are part of ongoing efforts by the Postal Service to cut costs after the passing of a 2006 law, which requires the Postal Service to pay about $5.5 billion a year into future retiree health benefits.

srinehart@semissourian.com

388-3641

Pertinent address:

475 Kell Farm Drive, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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