USPS: All Oregon Mail Processing Moving to Portland

Sen. Wyden Voices Concern Over Vote-By-Mail Impact

POSTED: 8:46 AM PST February 23, 2012    UPDATED: 4:19 AM PST February 23, 2012 
BEND, Ore. -

The U.S. Postal Service announced Thursday it has decided to consolidate all of Oregon's mail processing centers in Portland, meaning facilities in Bend, Salem, Eugene and Pendleton will close some time after May 15.

Spokesman Peter Hass says the closures will eliminate 164 jobs for projected savings of nearly $13 million.

He adds that letters mailed across town in those cities will take two days instead of one, but longer distance deliveries will still be made in three days.

Due to a 25 percent drop in first-class mail, the Postal Service is closing more than 260 mail processing centers nationwide, which is projected to eliminate 35,000 jobs.

After the changes, Anderson said, Bend residents, for example, may notice it takes an extra day to mail something within the city, since it must travel to Portland to be processed.

Another spokesman, Ron Anderson told news partner KBND radio they decided to move forward after public meetings throughout the state, citing a "dramatic decline in volume and our excess capacity."

"I think most people know the Postal Service is going through some challenging times," he said, "and changes need to be made to our distribution network to ensure the long-term stability of the Postal Service."

Coincidentally, May 15 is the day of Oregon's vote-by-mail primary this year -- a prime focus of the criticism in a statement issued Thursday by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

?The closure of the mail processing facilities in Bend, Pendleton, Eugene and Salem will not only add unnecessary delays to the delivery of mail and put a greater burden on hard-working postal employees throughout the state, it also threatens the integrity of Oregon?s vote-by-mail system," the senator said.

"These closures will make it unclear how long it will take mail ballots to travel from Central and Eastern Oregon and the Willamette Valley to the Portland area for processing and then back to the appropriate local election officials," he said.

"In Oregon, all ballots are cast by mail, and in a presidential election year, where more vote-by-mail ballots are expected to be cast, not knowing how long it will take to process those ballots could disproportionately affect rural voters," Wyden said. "Closing these facilities carries many unintended consequence. It is not a risk worth taking.?--

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Here's the official USPS news release Thursday that focuses on Bend:

As a result of studies begun five months ago, the U.S. Postal Service said Thursday it has decided to move all mail processing operations from the Bend Customer Service Mail Processing Center to the Portland Processing & Distribution Center.

Once the transfer is completed, the mail processing operation of the Bend Customer Service Mail Processing Center will cease. There will be no change to the Post Office retail unit or Business Mail Entry operations at the Bend location at this time, the announcement said.

The Postal Service 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.

?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 Chief Operating Officer Megan Brennan. ?Consolidating operations is necessary if the Postal Service is to remain viable to provide mail service to the nation.?

Specific dates have not been set for the transition. Until a specific date has been announced, residential and business mailers will continue to be served through the current facilities.

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.

Implementation of this consolidation is contingent upon the outcome of pending rule-making for a proposal to revise existing service standards. This announcement is provided in advance so that appropriate planning and notification can be made in accordance with existing employee agreements.

A list of mail processing studies and their status is available at usps.com/ourfuturenetwork. Specific information about individual studies, including public meeting summaries and summary briefs, is posted on the website, usps.com/areamailprocessing, as it becomes available.