A dollar short means a day later

Durango mail processing center to close as part of drastic USPS cuts

Local mail delivery will likely take another day and 16 jobs will be eliminated sometime after May 15, the date when the U.S. Postal Service has decided to close its processing center in Durango and transfer operations to Albuquerque, officials announced Thursday.

Not expected to change are the window and retail services at the Durango Post Office, 222 W. Eighth St.

Action by Congress could avert the consolidations of postal operations across the country. The consolidations are expected to eliminate 35,000 jobs, including 272 jobs in Colorado.

Because the volume of first-class mail has dropped by 25 percent since 2006, postal officials said the reorganization is necessary to remain viable. The U.S. Postal Service, which does not receive any tax dollars, supports itself through stamp sales and retail services.

It placed a moratorium on closings to give Congress time to come up with an alternative to the consolidation, but the moratorium ends May 15.

The Postal Service is not giving a definite date for the closings because it will need time to figure out its new logistics, said David Rupert, a spokesman for the Postal Service in Denver.

Its a huge puzzle, he said.

When the processing center is shut down, first-class delivery for local mail is expected to go from one to three days to one to four days.

Because local mail would have to go to Albuquerque for processing, it would need another day to return to an address in Durango or reach any location within a 90-mile radius of the city, Rupert said.

Durango mail going outside the region will keep the normal delivery time of one to three days because there wont be as much processing, Rupert said.

The analogy is catching a direct flight to a big city as opposed to needing an extra fight from a hub airport like Denver to reach a smaller city like Durango.

While the Postal Service is cutting 16 positions in Durango, the employees who lose jobs here will be offered other positions with the Postal Service. Attrition is expected to open up opportunities within the agency, Rupert said.

Postal workers at processing centers make a national average of $72,000, which includes their salary and total benefits package, Rupert said.

Last week, the Postal Service warned it will lose as much as $18.2 billion a year by 2015 unless Congress grants it new leeway to eliminate Saturday delivery and raise the price of a postage stamp by as much as 5 cents.

It is asking Congress for permission to make service cuts and reduce annual payments of about $5.5 billion to prefund retiree health benefits. At the request of Congress, the cash-strapped agency agreed to wait until mid-May to begin closures so lawmakers would have time to stabilize its finances first.

But in recent weeks, the Senate and House have stalled as lawmakers differ widely on costs, the level of financial oversight and the prospect of widespread postal closures.

The Postal Service, an independent agency of government, is subject to congressional control on major aspects of its operations. Earlier this month, the Postal Service said its quarterly loss ballooned to $3.3 billion amid declining mail volume and said it could run out of money by October.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is pushing for legislative changes that would stop or delay mass closings of mail processing centers, described the proposed closings as counterproductive. He and 26 other senators recently signed a letter to congressional sponsors of postal legislation seeking to prevent cuts to first-class mail delivery.

At a time when the Postal Service is competing against the instantaneous delivery of information from email and the Internet, slowing down mail delivery service will result in less business and less revenue, and will bring about a death spiral for this institution, Sanders said.

jhaug@durangoherald.com The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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