Quincy postal sorting site closing Saturday

Greg Douglas operates a mail canceling machine in early January at the Quincy Postal Service Processing and Distribution Facility. (H-W File Photo)
Posted: Jan. 31, 2013 10:25 am Updated: Feb. 21, 2013 10:36 am

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Quincy's mail processing facility near 42nd and Wismann Lane will close Saturday.

About 52 workers who started the year at the facility -- 39 clerks and 13 maintenance staff -- will be reassigned within a few weeks.

"Employees were told there will be no mail processing after Saturday. Everything else to do with the transition will not be complete until the end of February," said Valerie Welsch, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service Gateway District in St. Louis.

Vaughn Harshman, president of American Postal Workers Local 77, said union members are being notified about their new positions with the Postal Service. In his own case, Harshman has been in the Orville Browning Station at Eighth and Hampshire, taking a refresher course in the duties of a window clerk. Other workers may find themselves working at postal facilities up to 50 miles from Quincy, as allowed under federal labor contracts.

Closure of the mail processing facility is part of a national move to save money by trimming the Postal Service in order to avoid a budget deficit.

"We are currently losing $25 million per day," Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said during an interview this month.

The agency ran a deficit of $16 billion in the last fiscal year. About one-third of that deficit was caused by a requirement by Congress that postal retirement programs be fully paid up for 75 years by 2017.

Donahoe began closing more than 200 postal sorting facilities and moving those duties to larger sites last year. Quincy area mail, from the 623 ZIP code area was shifted to Springfield, Ill., last August. The Quincy processing facility remained open, with seven fewer workers, sorting mail for the 635 and 634 ZIP code areas in Northeast Missouri.

Starting next week, mail for the 635 ZIP code will be shipped to Columbia, Mo., for processing and mail from the 634 ZIP code will be processed in St. Louis.

"There will be no change to the retail operations, mail collection or the business mail entry unit operations at this time," Welsch said.

That pledge does not ease the concerns of some postal patrons who believe Quincy's mail service has deteriorated since August.

"GREDF is getting several reports of delays in prompt mail service within our locale: Long delays in employee paycheck deliveries to delays in simply getting business parcels across the river," said Phil Conover of the Great River Economic Development Foundationn.

"This is not good for an already marginal economy."

Quincy Mayor John Spring said city officials also ran into some problems when twice this month City Hall mail was not picked up for processing on the day it was sent out.

"We used to be able to rely on timely deliver, usually next-day delivery of local mail. Now most of the time we're seeing delivery in two or three days," Spring said.

Quincy officials, with the help of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, had fought to save the local sorting facility. They used a U.S. Postal Service report from 2009 that ranked the Quincy site as one of the most efficient sorting facilities in the region. At that time, the Postal Service was considering whether to close the Quincy sorting operation and move it to Springfield. Those considering the move said it would not save money.

The Postal Service came out with a new study last year saying the move to sorting in Springfield would save $617,000 in the first year and $906,000 per year after that. Moving mail sorting for Northeast Missouri to Columbia was expected to cost $240,000 during the first year, but save $404,000 per year after that.

"They say closing this processing center will create $1.3 million in annual savings. There's no possible way," Harshman said soon after the report was issued.

Level 6 clerks who have worked at the sorting facility received an average of $51,000 per year. A few of the clerks have retired in the past year. Others have taken letter carrier jobs or are due to transfer to other postal facilities within the area.

Postal officials have not yet determined whether they will sell the processing site building at 4330 Postal Drive, where sorting began in 2000.