Post office consolidation on pause

Senators’ request for reprieve while solution sought is granted

The U.S. Postal Service announced it will not close or consolidate any post office facilities for the next five months.

The decision was in response to requests by several U.S. senators that the Postal Service pause its closure and consolidation process in order to give Congress time to craft comprehensive postal reform.

U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall were among 20 senators who sent a letter to Senate leadership Friday requesting such a moratorium be mandated in the next appropriations bill. The Postal Service’s announcement Tuesday to delay post office closures was welcome news, the two senators wrote in a news release.

“This moratorium will give Congress time to find a long-term solution to place the Postal Service on a more secure financial trajectory,” Bennet wrote.

During the moratorium, which is set to end May 15, 2012, the Postal Service will continue to review the impact of proposed closures. That process will include making final determinations about closures and consolidations, though no facility would physically close, said David Rupert, a Colorado spokesman for the agency.

Durango’s mail-processing facility currently is under review for consolidation. The proposal would move mail-processing operations to Albuquerque and eliminate 16 positions at the Durango office, saving the post office $500,000 annually. The move also would mean overnight first-class mail delivery instead would take two or three days.

In a public-comment meeting Monday, Postal Service representatives said they planned to make a final decision about the Durango facility by February. During the meeting, audience members expressed concern about the elimination of overnight delivery of local first-class mail and the amount of junk mail residents currently receive.

Legislators’ suggestions for reforming the Postal Service include: encouraging the agency to adapt to digital mail services; building stronger relationships between the agency and the private sector; and housing post office centers in other businesses or government agencies.

As Congress works to create its own solution for the Postal Service, Rupert said the agency continues in dire financial straits. The agency faces a $10 billion deficit this year and will come up against its statutory borrowing limit in August if it continues with its current operating infrastructure network and delivery schedules.

“This (decision) gives Congress a little bit of time to work things out. Meanwhile, we’re still racking up huge debt,” Rupert said. “We’re facing both near-term and long-term fiscal issues.”

ecowan@durangoherald.com

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