Cumberland Times-News

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February 27, 2013

Post office losing sorting facility

Beginning March 23, mail, packages will be sent to Baltimore for processing

CUMBERLAND — All local mail will be making a 272-mile round trip as of March 23, the date Baltimore will start to process area mail and packages, according to Phil Jones, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 513.

“If you are going to mail a letter to somewhere in town, it will be going to Baltimore first,” said Jones.

With the U.S. Postal Service continuing to lose money at a rate of $25 million per day, the agency is moving rapidly to consolidate and pare down services across the nation, say officials.

For the time being, it will not affect employment here.

However, the aggressive moves by the Postal Service involve plans to further consolidate operations. Jones said the plan is to remove the machinery so all types of mail and package handling will be gone locally by May 2014.

“They want to remove it all. When they start to take our machinery and equipment, which could be in the summer or fall, that’s when things could get tough,” said Jones.

Removal of all processing ability could have a negative effect on the work force level in Cumberland. It could threaten five handlers, six maintenence technicians and 23 clerical positions, according to Jones.

“The only thing that could stop things is if bills in Congress ... get passed to protect things,” said Jones.

The proposed cutbacks would leave the Cumberland area with basically window service, carriers and some unloading help.

The U.S. Postal Service is one of the nation’s largest employers with nearly 600,000 full- and part-time employees.

“They are consolidating all over the U.S. The last year we were profitable was 2006 when we made $800 million,” said Jones.

It’s no coincidence that 2006 happens to be the year Congress passed an act that continues to strap the Postal Service with devastatingly high health care costs seen in no other industry, according to Jones.

In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which requires the U.S. Postal Service to pay $5.5 billion annually into a fund to prepay retiree health care costs for 75 years into the future.

Jones said the legislation has been a hardship for the Postal Service.

“They are continuing to make us pay even though there have been two studies done that say it (the fund) is over-funded. We are paying for people who are not even born yet,” said Jones.

 The act, along with the use of the Internet for bill paying and communications, has dealt a hard blow to the U.S. Postal Service coffers.

A decision to halt six-day service by discontinuing Saturday delivery has already been announced by the Postal Service.

The Cumberland Post Office handles mail with ZIP codes that begin with 215 and 267.

“They want to privatize it,” said Jones.

Jones said that despite letter mail being down, package delivery is up 18 percent from last year due to an increase in people ordering from online services and products marketed on television.

“Our package business is booming,” said Jones.

Carriers will not be affected by layoffs since mail delivery to homes and businesses will continue as normal.

 Jones questions the practicality of the changes.

“How is it cost efficient to take the mail 272 miles?” said Jones.

Sean O’Donnell, postmaster for Cumberland, declined to comment.

Efforts to contact public relations representatives for the Baltimore district were unsuccessful.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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