USPS closing Devils Lake and Minot centersThe U.S. Postal Service’s Customer Service Mail Processing Center in Grand Forks will remain open, but two others in the state — Devils Lake and Minot — will be relocated, the Postal Service announced Thursday.
By: Kevin Bonham, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
The U.S. Postal Service’s Customer Service Mail Processing Center in Grand Forks will remain open, but two others in the state — Devils Lake and Minot — will be relocated, the Postal Service announced Thursday.
The Devils Lake operation will move to Grand Forks, while the processing center in Minot will move to Bismarck, joining the processing and distribution center there.
In addition, the Bemidji mail processing center will be relocated to Minneapolis.
No significant changes will occur in Grand Forks, other than the consolidation of the Devils Lake center. However, it is possible that Grand Forks would add at least one employee to accommodate its expansion, according to Pete Nowacki, the Postal Service’s Dakota District spokesman in Minneapolis.
No dates have been set for the changes, although it likely will not happen until after May 15 because of a federal moratorium on such closings. The decision affects only the mail processing centers, not normal retail or other services, the Postal Service said.
“The decision to consolidate mail processing facilities recognizes the urgent need to reduce the size of the national mail processing network to eliminate costly underutilized infrastructure,” said Postal Service Chief Operating Officer Megan Brennan. “Consolidating operations is necessary if the Postal Service is to remain viable to provide mail service to the nation.”
The agency has experienced a 25 percent decline in first-class mail volume since 2006, and receives no tax dollars for its operations, relying instead on the sale of postage, postal products and services, according to a news release.
The Postal Service last year proposed to close both the Devils Lake and Grand Forks mail processing centers, by shifting the operations to Fargo. It was part of a proposal to eliminate 252 of 487 processing centers nationwide.
While the Grand Forks facility’s possible closing was put on hold in December, a decision to keep it open was not official until Thursday’s announcement, according to Nowacki.
Locally, the transfer of the Devils Lake mail processing center to Grand Forks would amount to a savings of about $221,000 annually, while its post office ultimately would lose one or two of its 15 positions, according to the Postal Service.
The changes in Minot would result in annual savings of about $2.8 million.
“It will have a real impact on our community,” said Rich Brueckner, executive director of the Devils Lake Chamber of Commerce.
At a public meeting in January, he cited two main impacts: the loss of two postal workers and the delays in mailings that local customers will face.
“It’s not just two postal employees from this location, it’s the loss of two families from the Devils Lake area,” he said Thursday.
The Postal Service said the changes likely mean that regional First Class mail that is being delivered overnight will be reduced to two- or three-day delivery.
In addition, he said local businesses and utilities may have to shorten their billing cycles to assure that their payments are received on time, and that could result in additional costs and/or penalties to customers, if their payments are not received on time.
He added that some credit card companies and other businesses are beginning to charge customers for online payments, so that could result in additional costs to consumers.
“In rural North Dakota, we have a number of residents of rural areas who receive their prescription drugs through the mail,” he said. “Will there will be a delay in the arrival of their prescriptions?”
The consolidation process is likely to be done in stages, rather than on a particular date, according to Nowacki.
“Each facility will be treated on its own. Operationally, that’s just impossible to shut down these facilities all at once,” he said.
In December, 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 all necessary steps required for the review of these facilities, including public notifications, public input meetings and consideration of public comments.
Kevin Bonham is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.