Carbondale mail processing plant could close

By Gus Bode

Carbondale’s U.S. Postal Service mail processing plant could be on the chopping block with recent cost-cutting measures.

“If they go through with it, it would be quite a blow,” councilwoman Jane Adams said.

The Postal Service told the Associated Press Monday it would move forward with plans to close 252 processing plants across the country in spring 2012, eliminating about 28,000 jobs. The closures are part of measures to avoid bankruptcy next year by saving $3 billion.

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Closing the Carbondale plant would eliminate about 40 jobs, said Valerie Welsch, spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service Gateway District.

The changes would also essentially eliminate one-day delivery for first-class mail, and two-to-three day delivery would become the norm. The Postal Service also said it would like to eliminate Saturday delivery, but that would require approval from Congress.

Postal Service vice president David Williams said at a news conference that the reductions were necessitated by increased popularity of email communication and online billing.

The $3 billion is only part of $20 billion the Postal Service said it needed to cut by 2015 in order to become profitable.

As of now, a final decision on whether or not to close the Carbondale plant and move its operations to Evansville, Ind., has not been made, Welsch said.

There will be a public hearing on the matter Dec. 15 at the SIUC Student Center auditorium.

Roger Ellithorpe, of Pomona, said he understands the Postal Service’s reasoning, as the Internet has greatly changed the way people communicate. But he said closing postal facilities, as was done with the Pomona post office, destroys a sense of community.

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“The post office holds a place in our society,” Ellithorpe said.

While the Carbondale post office itself is not in danger of being closed, Welsch said, the processing plant is.

Ellithorpe said people he knows in the service said if the plant should close, employees with seniority would be given the choice of either taking a job somewhere else or replacing someone with less seniority in Carbondale, which would be a hard decision, he said.

The greater issue of how to keep the Postal Service solvent is complex and doesn’t appear to present any easy answers, he said.

With the decline in physical mail, communication has lost a personal touch that email can’t provide, Ellithorpe said.

“You can’t send that Crayola-scrawled ‘Happy Birthday, Grandma,’” he said.

Adams said she, like most people, does not use mail nearly as much as she used to, but the electronic revolution in communication has been a painful one.

“It really is a wrenching transformation,” she said. “This is the Internet revolution rolling through our economy.”

Adams said there is also no turning back, and people aren’t going to go back to doing more of their communication through mail.

“It’s like asking people to use horses after the automobile was perfected,” she said.

Welsch said other areas of the Postal Service, such as parcel shipping and express and bulk mail, are doing well, but first-class mail is still central to its business.

“First-class is the bread and butter of the Postal Service,” she said.

Welsch said she couldn’t say whether or not the Postal Service could survive on just the other services.

 

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