By Steve Key
Hoosier State Press Association

Northern Indiana news­papers, if they haven’t already, need to plan on how to minimize the impact of imminent closings of five Indiana sorting facilities by the U.S. Postal Service.

With the failure of Congress to pass postal reform legislation in 2014, the Postal Service plans to move forward with the closing of 82 processing centers across the country.

The five centers set to close in Indiana are all in the northern half of the state – Gary, Kokomo, Lafayette, Muncie and South Bend. Indiana’s loss of five plants is the highest number in one state.

Kokomo, Lafayette and Muncie mail will be shipped to Indianapolis for processing. South Bend mail will be shipped to Fort Wayne, and Gary mail will go to Bedford Park, Ill.

The expectation, based on past experience with postal facility closings, is that mail delivery of newspapers in those areas will be delayed, particularly for out-of-county subscribers.

The closing of the Terre Haute mail processing facility in 2012 resulted in delayed delivery of southeastern Indiana newspapers.

In desperation, at least one newspaper successfully petitioned for its mail to go to Evansville, rather than Indianapolis, for processing to improve delivery time.

Max Heath, National Newspaper Association postal chairman and postal consultant for Athlon Media Group and Landmark Community Newspapers, offered options for newspapers to lessen the impact of the closings in his column that ran in the November edition of The Indiana Publisher.

It’s a must-read for anyone trying to protect delivery time. To read it online, visit www.hspa.com.

Heath’s suggestions include:

• Destination delivery unit drop-off by the newspaper to nearby post offices. This avoids days lost while newspapers go from the home post office to Indianapolis, Fort Wayne or Bedford Park for sorting and then return to those nearby post offices.

• Exceptional Dispatch to other post offices in or out of county. This will require a written request to your local postmaster but could save days in delivery time.

• Hubs dispatch “direct” containers. This can route mail from the old sectional center facility hub directly to the desired post office rather than traveling farther up the mail stream and then returning back to the targeted post office. (See Heath’s column on postal bundling on Page 5.)

Newspapers that will be impacted by the Gary, Kokomo, Lafayette, Muncie and South Bend closings should check locally on the scheduled closings and put the needed postal alternatives into play prior to that date.

Steve Key is executive director and general counsel for HSPA.