Consolidation plan would end Olympia postmark

mail SERVICE: Post office might cut 29 local jobs

JOHN GILLIE; Staff writerFebruary 24, 2012 

Say goodbye to mail postmarked Olympia or Tacoma along with 168 South Sound postal jobs if a plan unveiled Thursday comes to fruition.

That U.S. Postal Service consolidation scheme is part of a larger nationwide plan to eliminate 223 mail processing facilities to save some $2.1 billion annually.

Mail now processed and sorted in Olympia and Tacoma will be handled in an underused postal facility in Seattle, along with mail now sorted in Everett, if Congress doesn’t alter the plan by May 15.

Along with its Pine Street mail processing plant, Tacoma could lose its postmark. The same is true for mail now sorted in Olympia unless a postal patron requests special hand-canceling.

“In the past, we made a special concession to Olympia when some of that work was moved to Tacoma,” said Ernie Swanson, a postal service spokesman. “We postmarked that mail Olympia-Tacoma. That kind of thing could happen again. We could have a Seattle- Tacoma postmark, but I wouldn’t bet on it.”

First-class letters mailed in much of Washington would bear the postmarks of the state’s two remaining postal processing centers – in Seattle and Spokane – under the merger plan.

Under that economy scheme, Pasco, Wenatchee and Yakima postal processing facilities would be merged with an existing facility in Spokane.

The Postal Service blamed a 25 percent decline in first-class mail volume since 2006 for forcing the economy measures. The Postal Service lost $3.3 billion last quarter.

The consolidation plan is part of a larger Postal Service program to reduce costs by $20 billion by 2015 nationwide.

Although other parts of that plan are still being studied, Saturday mail delivery may be one of its other casualties.

Consistent next day local delivery of first-class mail could also fall victim to the merger plan because of the distances involved in transporting the mail to be sorted.

According to the recommendation reached after five months of study, 300 mail processing positions statewide will be eliminated. In Olympia, the job cuts will amount to 29 workers. In Tacoma, the number is 139.

While mail processing will move elsewhere, the retail and business operations at the processing centers will remain open, the Postal Service said.

Specific dates for the closures haven’t been announced, but the Postal Service has said in the past it wants to begin making those changes this summer.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663

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