USPS slowing plant closing plans

By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

The United States Postal Service is putting the brakes on plans to close 89 more mail processing plants and to shutter rural post offices.

Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman assured the Senate Homeland Security Committee Jan. 29 that the agency plans to close no more rural post offices.

He told the panel that the USPS had shut all the rural post offices it believed needed closing. He said the Postal Service would continue to limit service hours at some offices, but that it realized the need to have a presence in rural areas.

On Jan. 24, the Postal Service published a notice in the Federal Register that it was postponing a planned second wave of plant closings that would have saved the agency an estimated $1 billion a year.

The notice did not indicate when — or if — the USPS might revive the closing plans.

It did say that the decision also meant postponing additional changes in mail delivery standards that were supposed to be effective Feb. 1.

In Fayetteville, N.C., one of the cities scheduled to lose several hundred jobs in the second phase, the news was welcomed by the local president of the American Postal Workers Union.

Tony D. McKinnon Sr. said most of the city’s mail processing operations remain on the chopping block.

“It’s enormous that they decided not to do it at this point,” McKinnon told the Fayetteville Observer.

“By postponing this, it tells us they are starting to take a closer look at how service standards have deteriorated” as a result of the plan’s first phase, he said.

House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., attacked the plans to slow plant closings, saying that actions had been taken “to appease the avowed opponents of postal reform.

“Relying solely on rate increases will not save the Postal Service from insolvency,” Issa said in a statement.

“Many reformers believe the postal service needs to accelerate cost cutting efforts, not suspend them,” Issa added.

The Postal Service has said it completed consolidating processing at 140 locations in 2013, saving $1 billion in operating costs.