The U.S. Postal Service has given its six-month notice of a plan to close up to five Indiana mail-processing locations.
The number is the most potential plant closings in one state as the Postal Service targets 82 processing centers in the second phase of its reorganization.
The five Indiana facilities that could close at the end of 2014 are in Gary, Kokomo, Lafayette, Muncie and South Bend.
Kokomo, Lafayette and Muncie mail would be shipped to Indianapolis for processing. South Bend mail would be shipped to Fort Wayne, and Gary mail would go to Bedford Park, Illinois.
Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, cautions northern Indiana newspapers that mail facility closings could impact delivery times, particularly for out-of-county subscribers.
The closing of the Terre Haute mail processing facility resulted in delayed delivery of southeastern Indiana newspapers in 2012.
Out-of-county subscribers did not receive their papers in the same amount of time after the Terre Haute facility closed, according to Key. At least one newspaper successfully petitioned for its mail to go to Evansville, rather than Indianapolis, for processing to improve delivery time.
National Newspaper Association President Robert M. Williams Jr., publisher of the Blackshear (Ga.) Times, strongly objected to the proposed closings as a lowering of service standards for periodicals and first-class mail.
In a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, Williams said: “We deeply regret our long-time partnership with the Postal Service is about to be further stressed by another degradation of service. NNA does not understand how rising prices, slower service and further concentration of services into urban areas helps our nationwide mail service to survive Internet competition or any other threat.”
The National Newspaper Association said although the Postal Service is showing operating profits this year after several years in the red, a $40 billion debt on the postal balance sheet promoted the upcoming closings.
Most of the Postal Service debt is to the U.S. Treasury, which it owes for the accelerated prepayment of postal retiree health costs imposed by Congress in 2006.
Many mailing organizations, labor unions and concerned postal users have lobbied Congress vigorously for the past eight years to relax the requirements, which have been set up for no other federal agency.
Williams emphasized in his letter to Donahoe that the National Newspaper Association has set its Congressional Action Team in motion repeatedly to support legislative efforts to relieve financial pressure on the Postal Service.
“We want postal reform legislation this year,” Williams said. “We have looked for several years now for legislation that balances the needs of USPS, of the postal workforce and of mailers, particularly those in rural areas hard hit by the previous round of postal plant closings. We recognize that the Postal Service is a powerful federal agency that influences our advertising marketplaces and therefore must be fairly regulated. But we object to Congress’ having tried repeatedly to use the postage-selling abilities of USPS as a cash cow. We are very hopeful that we will see legislation this year that strikes the right balance and that we can vigorously support it before these plant closings kick in.
In Phase 1 of Postal Service reorganization, officials consolidated 141 mail-processing facilities. In a release June 30, the Postal Service claimed the first round of plant closings saved $865 million. It said Phase 2 will save $750 million.