The U.S. Postal Service announced this week that it will consolidate its Kalispell mail-processing center with the one in Missoula. The Kalispell facility will close by March 2013.
The decision was a result of a 2011 study to consolidate processing facilities nationwide. According to USPS spokesperson Pete Nowacki, 46 small processing facilities have been closed or consolidated this year. Next year, 140 will be added to that group, including Kalispell.
“The real work will start after the first of the year,” Nowacki said.
Nowacki said the delay is due to an increase in mail traffic as a result of the upcoming election and holidays. The closure of the Kalispell plant is expected to save USPS $580,000 annually, according to Nowacki.
Eight jobs will be lost in the consolidation, but Nowacki said the USPS would work with the affected employees to find other assignments.
“Every individual’s situation is different and we’re going to work with them to make sure they land on solid ground,” he said.
In a press release, USPS Dakotas District Manager Roy Reynolds said the cuts are necessary because of a 20 percent decline in mail volume since 2007.
“I understand our employees’ concern over this move, but the consolidation makes sense given the fiscal realities. The Missoula Customer Service Mail Processing Facility has the capacity to handle the additional workload and we can realize significant savings by shifting operations there,” Reynolds wrote.
Last year, the Postal Service announced it was looking at closing facilities in Missoula and Kalispell and consolidating those services with Spokane. Such a move would have ended overnight mail service in Northwest Montana. Earlier this year, it announced the Missoula facility would remain open.
Nowacki said local mail service in Northwest Montana and the Kalispell area would not be affected and that packages could still be sent overnight through Missoula.
The news was not welcomed by all. On Wednesday, Congressman Denny Rehberg urged USPS to reconsider its decision to close the Kalispell facility.
“The Postal Service just doesn’t seem to get it,” Rehberg said in a press release. “Despite what the pencil pushers say, cutting rural service is the last thing they should be doing. Urban locations have countless competitors and easier access to goods while rural states like Montana are much more dependent on the Postal Service.
Meanwhile, Sens. Max Bacus and Jon Tester echoed Rehberg’s sentiment that the closure was unfair to rural areas. But in a joint press release, the lawmakers largely blamed the House of Representatives for not passing a Postal Service reform bill, like the Senate did in April.
“Montanans may lose their jobs because of a failure of leadership by the House of Representatives. We have waited and waited for them to act and now the consequences of their inaction are coming home to Kalispell. That’s unacceptable,” Tester said.
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