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Postal processing center to close

By COREY DAVIS

Staff Writer

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The Rocky Mount mail processing and distribution facility at 201 S. George Street will close in January, according to U.S. Postal Service Corporate Communications Program Specialist Monica Coachman.

The facility had long been considered for closing since the Postal Service announced it was studying the feasibility of consolidating the Rocky Mount operations into the Raleigh processing and distribution center in 2011. Coachman said Rocky Mount is one of 82 facilities that will be consolidated starting in 2015.

“The network rationalization initiative calls for mail processing operations in Rocky Mount to be moved to Raleigh,” Coachman said. “This means mail that was processed in Rocky Mount would be collected and transported to Raleigh for processing and sortation. Much of the mail that was processed in this facility when the original proposal was presented in 2011 has already been transferred to Raleigh for processing. It is returned to Rocky Mount for final sortation to local delivery units. Much of that transfer happened transparently to our customers.”

Coachman said 129 positions are assigned to the facility, including 16 non-career positions at the George Street processing center. The consolidation will result in no layoffs or job losses, she said, but the closure will result in either people retiring, transferring to other surrounding postal facilities or to other postal facilities out of the area.

“In the coming months, affected employees will have an opportunity to make personal career decisions,” she said. “Every effort will be made to reassign impacted employees when implementing the next phase of the current consolidation plan.”

Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs said the closing of the processing and distribution center will impact the local economy.

“It is always a down side when you’re going to have jobs taken out of the community,” he said.

Coachman said no specific dates for the consolidation have been established at this time. Although the change may seem cumbersome to customers, Coachman said the process is actually very efficient.

“U.S. Postal Service has high-speed sorting equipment that can process millions of pieces of mail quickly and accurately, allowing time for the mail to be loaded and returned to other areas for delivery,” she said.

Since 2006, the Postal Service has successfully ceased mail processing operations in more than 350 facilities nationwide and removed nearly 4,000 pieces of equipment. Currently, the average time for first-class mail to reach its destination is 2.14 days.

“Once the next phase is implemented, the overall average delivery time will be 2.25 days.”

While the processing and distribution center will close, the network consolidation plan will have no effect on retail operations, said Carl Walton, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service’s Greensboro District.

“Hours and services offered at the Rocky Mount Post Office will not change as a result of this initiative,” Walton said. “People will continue to be able to walk up to the counter to mail packages, letters and buy stamps at the George Street Post Office.”

The U.S. Postal Service announced in 2011 it had lost $5.1 billion. In 2010, losses totaled $8.5 billion. Coachman said the Postal Service continues to seek significant legislative reform, but the uncertainty as to when or whether Congress will act has caused the Postal Service to take action.

The consolidation would free up about $750 million that would cover some operating expenses and perhaps allow the Postal Service to invest in some new vehicles and much-needed mailing processing equipment, she added.

“The Postal Service has recorded substantial losses over the past three years, and the U.S. Postal Service continues to see steep declines in first-class mail volume and revenue,” Coachman said. “Operating costs continue to increase, and so does the agency’s debt. This has resulted in a lot of excess capacity in our processing network facilities and consolidation is one of the few options for us to reduce costs.”