USPS to close Cape Girardeau, Paducah, Carbondale distribution centers

The U.S. Postal Service has decided to move the processing and distribution center in Cape Girardeau to St. Louis.
The U.S. Postal Service has decided to move the processing and distribution center in Cape Girardeau to St. Louis.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The U.S. Postal Service has decided to move the processing and distribution centers in Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, and Paducah.

This comes after five months of studies as the U.S. Postal Services seeks ways to cut costs.

The Postal Service is seeking new leeway from Congress to eliminate Saturday mail delivery, raise stamp prices and reduce health and other labor costs.

Richard Watkins, spokesman for regional office of the Postal Service, said Thursday that work at the Springfield, Mo. facility will move to the Kansas City distribution center. Work at the Cape Girardeau center will move to a site in downtown St. Louis.

"It's important to point out this is just the mail processing operation, the mail sorting operation," said Richard Watkins. "It's not our retail, not our P.O. box sections, not our main post office or bulk mail entry unit. Those won't be impacted by this change."

No dates have been set for consolidation of the Cape Girardeau center with the downtown St. Louis site, but the closings would not take effect before May 13.  The Cape Girardeau closing would affect around 100 positions.  Once the transition is made, the mail processing operation of the Cape Girardeau P&DF will cease. That move is expected to save about $3.8 million a year.

Watkins said some transfer opportunities will be available for the workers from the distribution center.

"There will be positions in St. Louis doing a similar job based on seniority of course," said Watkins." He said other positions would be available too within the postal service such as mail carrier positions.

The Postal Service plans to move several mail processing operations in Illinois: from Bloomington to Peoria and Champaign; from Carbondale and Centralia to Evansville, Ind.; from Effingham to Champaign; from Quincy to Columbia; and from Springfield to St. Louis.

In addition, the remaining mail operations will be moved from Fox Valley to Bedford Park and originating mail processing operations will leave Cardiss Collins in Chicago for Bedford Park and Carol Stream.

The Postal Service said centers in Bowling Green, Campton, Elizabethtown, Hazard, Lexington, London, Paducah and Somerset would close. Mail processed at those centers will now be processed at facilities in other cities.

The Paducah distribution center will close and move to Evansville in February 2013.

However, the Paducah facility will remain a postal hub that will allow it to collect local mail. About 35 people will lose their jobs in Paducah.  Other employees will be redistributed in hub and some sent to Evansville.

In December 2011, the Postal Service agreed to impose a moratorium on closing or consolidating post offices and mail processing facilities prior to May 15, 2012, to give Congress and the Administration the opportunity to enact an alternative plan.

This delay was designed to allow Congress sufficient time to enact comprehensive postal legislation. In the meantime, the Postal Service continued what it calls "all necessary steps required for the review of these facilities, including public notifications, public input meetings and consideration of public comments."

However, implementation of this consolidation depends on the outcome of pending rulemaking for a proposal to revise existing service standards.

The Postal Service says the announcement is provided in advance so that appropriate planning and notification can be made in accordance with existing employee agreements.

The Postal Service has experienced a 25 percent decline in First-Class Mail volume since 2006.  It receives no tax dollars for its operations, relying instead on the sale of postage, postal products and services.

It appears the internet is to blame for the decline.

"I read that as recently as 10 or 11 years ago few than 5% of Americans were paying their bills online," said Watkins. "Now we're beyond 50% so certainly that has had a significant impact on postal revenues because we're not tax supported."

He says the U.S. Postal Service has not used a single dime of taxpayer dollars to fund the operation since 1982.

"We're proud of that, and want to keep it that way," said Watkins.

Earlier this month, the Postal Service said its quarterly loss grew to $3.3 billion amid declining mail. Postal officials have said they need to cut $20 billion by 2015 in order to stay profitable.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (MO-08) responded to the announcement by the U.S. Postal Service with this statement:

"I'm incredibly disappointed not only with this decision, but also in the way it was communicated to the communities that rely on these facilities for the timely delivery of the mail they entrust to the USPS. I understand the financial challenges facing the Postal Service, but I do not accept that the way to meet these challenges is to eliminate valued facilities, reduce service and reliability, and slow the delivery of mail. It's absolutely counter-intuitive.

"For postal customers in the Cape Girardeau and Springfield areas, this means their mail will require a minimum of two days for local delivery, because the mail now has to travel 100 miles to be sorted. While the USPS should be focused on eliminating redundancies and management overlap, it is instead getting rid of the postal employees who work closest to their customers. I'm frustrated and disappointed in this decision. The Postal Service acts as though it doesn't trust its own employees and it doesn't care about its customers, and they are never going to stop losing money with a mind-set like that."

Copyright 2012 KFVS. All rights reserved.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.