Despite months of ominous warnings that hundreds of post offices and postal sorting centers could close down early this summer, don’t expect to find your favorite post office shuttered anytime soon.
The United States Postal Service – prompted by a Senate bill that, if passed by the House, would inject $11 billion more into postal system coffers – appears to be backing away from its doomsday plans for post offices and postal processing facilities nationwide and in Washington.
That tentative reprieve would at least temporarily stave off plans to shut down a handful of rural post offices in Thurston and Pierce counties and could even rescue postal sorting centers in Tacoma and Lacey from a planned consolidation with a sorting hub in Seattle.
“Any proposals to close these facilities have been placed on hold and will not close at this time,” said a statement from Richard Watkins, Postal Service spokesman in the Kansas City, Mo., area. “Going forward, the Postal Service will evaluate how best to incorporate them into long-term plans for effective and efficient retail service.”
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Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson said Monday that the post office will submit a plan to the Postal Rate Commission that would rescue rural post offices by cutting their hours and consolidating nearby facilities. In Thurston and Pierce counties, that plan would give new life to small post offices in Bucoda, Ashford, Carbonado, Kapowsin, LaGrande and Wilkeson. If the commission accepts that plan, those smaller post offices would continue operating, albeit with shorter hours.
Swanson said he expects the Postal Service might announce this week further plans regarding the postal processing facilities. The Postal Service had planned to consolidate processing centers in Tacoma, Everett and Lacey into the Seattle hub and sorting centers in Wenatchee, Yakima and Pasco into a facility in Spokane. That announcement could include plans to halt closure of post office branches in Tacoma’s Hilltop and at American Lake and Madigan Army Medical Center.
The sorting center mergers could have ended guaranteed overnight delivery of first class mail in the Olympia and Tacoma areas.
Several senators have asked the post office to delay its final decisions on closure and consolidations to allow Congress more time to act.
The Postal Service, hit by declining mail volumes, says it is losing $3.2 billion a quarter. It proposed the closures as a way to stem those losses.
Postal unions, businesses and consumer groups have rallied behind their local post offices saying the proposed closures could make postal system access difficult for seniors and delay vital business shipments.
Last week, nearly half of the Senate, including Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., signed a letter directed to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe asking him to wait until Congress can act.
“The USPS is a major employer around the country and employs over 500,000 workers,” the letter said. “With an unacceptably high unemployment rate, it would be particularly inopportune for the USPS to close facilities.”