OTTUMWA — There may actually be some bright spots in the U.S. Postal Service future that has been darkened by consolidation, hour changes and massive financial losses.
While the Postal Service is still losing $25 million each day, blamed mostly on a dramatic decrease in First Class mail, efforts to balance the bottom line are being accelerated.
“There has been a significant decrease in the stamped, single piece of mail being sent,” said Richard Watkins, corporate communications spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Kansas City. “This is mostly driven by electronic diversion, like paying bills online instead of mailing them in. This isn't unexpected. We understand that it's a free service, and it's tough to compete with free. But that changes how the post office sorts mail.”
In surrounding states, the plan to consolidate area mail processing facilities has been accelerated. Watkins says that now, with lack of legislation to help the postal service be more flexible, it was left with little choice.
“We looked at consolidating in Iowa, but the feasibility studies we received said it wasn't a good idea there,” he told the Courier. “With more than 800 post offices in Iowa, when you change one link in the chain, it affects the rest. This means we're not looking at consolidating in Iowa anymore right now.”
But for other parts of the country, including other Midwestern states, area mail processing facilities already scheduled for consolidation have been accelerated, with some even being completed yet this year.
“The mail volume regionally mirrors what is happening nationwide, but we're not consolidating in Iowa at this point,” Watkins reiterated.
The Postal Service has cut more than $15 billion in spending over past seven years and cut 200,000 career positions nationwide through attrition. Combine this with the consolidating process and shorter retail hours in rural areas, and officials are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel while remaining realistic.