By Myers Reece, 5-17-12
||Caption: The mail-processing center on Meridian Road in Kalispell. - File photo by Justin Franz/Flathead Beacon
The U.S. Postal Service announced Thursday a plan to close Kalispell’s mail-processing center this summer, a decision that has drawn the ire of Montana Sen. Max Baucus.
The Postal Service says it will consolidate or close up to 140 mail-processing facilities by February 2013, with some consolidation and closures occurring this summer. Kalispell’s facility, under the plan, will be consolidated with Missoula’s processing center.
Prior to Thursday, Baucus’ office said the Kalispell facility was under study for potential closure but no final decision had been made.
“We stopped them from shutting down Missoula, Butte, Helena and Wolf Point mail-processing facilities – and I’ll fight tooth and nail to protect Kalispell and the 20 jobs that are on the line,” Baucus said in a statement.
Baucus said he brought Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to Montana in April to show him “firsthand that shutting down Montana facilities is a small-minded way to address a large-scale problem.” Now Baucus says a postal reform bill in the House may decide the fate of the Kalispell facility.
Baucus included a provision in the Senate version of the postal reform bill ensuring that no postal facility could be closed prior to Nov. 13 “in a state that conducts all elections by mail or permits no-excuse absentee voting,” a description that includes Montana.
According to a press release from Baucus’ office, “the Postal Service couldn’t even consider closing the Kalispell facility” until after Nov. 13 if the postal reform bill is passed.
“Additionally,” the release states, “if the House fails to pass the Senate’s Postal Reform Bill, mail-processing facilities in Butte, Helena and Wolf Point are all likely to be right back on the chopping block as early as next year.”
In a letter to Baucus, Donahoe noted that last week the Postal Service announced a $6.5 billion net loss for six months through the second quarter and anticipates a fiscal year 2012 loss in excess of $14 billion, including $11 billion of congressionally mandated retiree health benefit pre-funding costs.
“Clearly, reform is needed,” Donahoe wrote, “and the Postal Service is committed to generating the cost reductions within our control necessary to return to financial health and long-term financial stability.”
Sen. Jon Tester also said he will fight to keep the Kalispell facility open.
“The Postal Service’s decision to close Kalispell is unfortunate,” Tester said. “This shows how important it is that the House passes our bill that will bring more people into the decision-making process and keep the Postmaster General from closing facilities on his own.”
But Tester was pleased by Donahoe’s decision to keep the Butte, Helena and Wolf Point mail-processing facilities open.
“Rural Montanans told the Postal Service how important these facilities are, and these facilities are now staying open,” Tester said. “It’s time for the House to pass our reform bill and give some much-needed certainty to postal workers and the folks who rely on timely service to receive their letters, packages, prescriptions and mail ballots.”
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