The U.S. Postal Service announced Sept. 15 that 250 processing centers across the country will be reviewed for closure in the coming months, including four in Montana.
USPS spokesperson Pete Nowacki said processing centers in Kalispell, Missoula, Helena and Wolf Point were included in the list released last week. These facilities join the 85 small, mostly rural post offices in the state that are also being reviewed for possible closure, although no final decisions have been made.
Nowacki said the volume of first-class mail, which is how the Postal Service makes most of its money, has been cut in half the last few years and the need for a massive system to sort it all is unnecessary. According to the Postal Service, mail volume decreased by 43 billion pieces in the last five years. Currently there are 500 processing centers across the country.
“We’re almost out of cash, which means we need to do some serious things and face some serious realities,” Nowacki said.
If the distribution facilities in Kalispell and Missoula were to close, the job of sorting mail for western Montana would be left up to the facility in Spokane, Wash. Nowacki said it was unknown if or how many jobs would be lost. Forty-five people are employed at the Kalispell processing center and 70 in Missoula.
Nowacki said the Postal Service lost over $8 billion last year and it was likely to lose the same amount this year. Although USPS is a government agency, and reports to Congress, it does not receive money from taxpayers and is entirely funded through postage and other services. However, it owes more than $5 billion to the U.S. Treasury Department by Sept. 30 to cover retirement plans for employees and is likely to default on this payment.
“Certainly, at some point, the cash will run out,” Nowacki said, though he added that the agency has enough money to continue operations for the time being.
If the Postal Service does go forward with the closure of 250 processing facilities, Nowacki said $3 billion would be saved annually. It could still be months, however, before any decisions are made and Nowacki said no closures would take place until early next year.
The processing facilities join four small northwestern Montana post offices on the chopping block in Olney, Stryker, Elmo and Dixon. The four rural stations are part of a group of 3,700 offices that have been put up for review across the country, 85 of which are in Montana. Nowacki said public meetings have been held at each location in northwestern Montana and information gathered from those events is now being reviewed by the Postal Service.
On Sept. 16, Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg promoted his call for Montanans to contact his office about how the closure of 85 post offices and four processing centers would affect them.
“I’ll keep fighting to make sure rural states like Montana aren’t asked to shoulder more than our fair share of the sacrifice,” Rehberg said in a press release.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester also criticized the Postal Service and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe for the proposed cuts.
“I think this is a prime example of someone who is not in touch with rural American,” Tester said in an interview with the Flathead Beacon. “This is not a good proposal.”
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