Utica postal center again set to close

Unwilling to wait for Congress, the U.S. Postal Service is moving forward with a multibillion-dollar cost-cutting plan that will close nearly 250 mail processing centers, including, among the first 48 sites to close in August, Utica’s Pitcher Street site, losing its nearly 200 jobs.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said Thursday that the agency’s mail processing network had simply become too big, given declining first-class mail volume and mounting debt. It will stretch out closing the remaining centers over a longer time frame in 2013 and 2014.

Earlier this month, nearly half the Senate had written letters to Donahoe asking that he hold off on closing any mail facility until Congress could pass final postal overhaul legislation. The Senate last month passed a bill that would halt many of the closings. The House remains stalled over a separate postal measure allowing for more aggressive cuts.

"To return to long-term profitability and financial stability while keeping mail affordable, we must match our network to the anticipated workload," Donahoe said. Failure to do so, he stressed, would "create a fiscal hole that the Postal Service will not be able to climb out of."

Closings would be suspended during the Postal Service’s busy election and holiday mail season.

The consolidations are initially expected to reduce postal staff by 13,000 and save the struggling mail agency roughly $1.2 billion annually. By the time the full round of cuts is implemented by late 2014, the post office will have 28,000 fewer employees with estimated annual savings of $2.1 billion.

The latest postal move comes after vociferous protests from communities across the U.S., particularly those in rural areas, over the mail agency’s initial multibillion dollar cost-cutting plan to close up to 3,700 post offices and 252 mail processing centers. The Postal Service last week backed off the closing of post offices, saying it would cut costs instead by reducing operating hours in 13,000 mostly rural locations.