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January 23, 2012 | last updated January 26, 2012 10:45 am
Newsworthy

The U.S. Postal Service weighs consolidating its services

Photo/Tim Greenway
Photo/Tim Greenway
Deb Essler, Northern New England district manager for the U.S. Postal Service

A proposal to consolidate postal operations in Hampden with a facility in Scarborough has raised the hackles of many Bangor-area businesses who don't want to lose proximity to a U.S. Postal Service processing and distribution facility. But with the Postal Service facing $20 billion in cuts over the next three years to bring itself into the black, Maine postal service will likely undergo some changes.

Deb Essler, Northern New England district manager for the Postal Service, was at a public hearing in Brewer recently to explain proposed changes. Although no action is expected before mid-May, Essler wanted to air a Maine plan that saves $7.6 million annually. Nearly $3 million is expected from payroll savings while $4 million is expected from avoided maintenance and equipment costs.

The Eastern Maine Processing and Distribution Facility in Hampden is just the latest operation to come under Postal Service review. Nationally, there were 487 mail processing facilities last year and the Postal Service expects there will be fewer than 200 facilities in 2013 as its consolidation plan unfolds across the country.

Across the country, commercial customers — especially small business that still do the bulk of their invoicing and receivables by mail — as well as large periodical distributors, bulk mailers and direct-mail operators are alarmed at the probable delivery delays. The Postal Service has said the delivery time for first-class mail could be extended by one day under the streamlining plan.

Mainebiz talked with Essler about the proposed changes for Maine and then followed up with an email exchange. The following is an edited transcript.

Mainebiz: What are the plans for the Hampden facility?

Essler: It would not close entirely. It would still serve as a hub location to collect and transport mail to Scarborough. But the mail processing operation would disappear and employment at the building would go down.

What is the expected job impact?

There would be a net reduction of about 40 jobs; many of them would be [eliminated through] retirements, we expect. We anticipate there will be about 120 new positions in Scarborough. [Union agreements will affect who fills those positions.]

What do you expect will be the impact to business customers if the facility is consolidated?

For business customers that are large mailers, we are working with them directly to devise solutions. We understand same-day delivery of time-sensitive materials, such as newspapers, is important. Also, if the [consolidation plan] were to be approved, the Bulk Mail Unit would continue at Eastern Maine to serve our mailers. For mailers wishing to take advantage of [destination] discounts … if the [plan] were approved, to obtain the DSCF discounts, the mail would need to be entered at the Southern Maine facility.

You see the greatest savings in avoided maintenance costs at the Eastern Maine facility. How do those break down?

Under this plan, we would be utilizing more fully our mail processing center in Scarborough, so the equipment there would run 20 out of 24 hours a day, with four hours reserved for maintenance. The equipment has a great deal of cost associated with it; these are high-tech machines that require maintenance every day to ensure we are protecting the privacy and security of our customers. Then there's additional time spent on ensuring the accuracy of the machines … so the mail is directed to the exact location [it's intended.]

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