Johnson City residents could soon be mailing letters headed only blocks away that would have to be processed in Knoxville before it returns here, and more than 60 jobs may be in jeopardy.
The U.S. Postal Service plans to conduct a study at the Johnson City Customer Service Mail Processing Center at 530 E. Main St. to examine the feasibility of consolidating its operations into Knoxville’s processing and distribution center.
If the local feasibility study says to consolidate mail processing operations with Knoxville, the postal service will hold a public meeting to explain the proposed operational changes and potential impacts on service, and to solicit public feedback which will then be considered before a final decision is made.
“In Johnson City’s case, it’s the people and machines that sort the mail, and we’re not saying the facility could close,” David Walton, a USPS spokesman said Thursday from Louisville, Ky. “But should we decide to do this, 63 employees could be affected.”
Walton said mail would travel farther but people should expect delivery times to stay close to the same. All first-class mail should be delivered in between two to three days. Express and overnight mailings would go to Knoxville, but he said the postal service still would guarantee delivery.
“We’re in this situation mainly because of the recession,” he said. “More people are paying their bills online, and first-class mail has pretty much been our bread and butter.”
Walton could not say how many facilities might be closed nationwide.
The “Area Mail Processing” study involves a review of the mail processing and transportation operations to determine capacity needs within the postal network in order to increase efficiency and improve productivity. The study, which is expected to be completed in early 2012, comes as the postal service faces one of the most difficult challenges in its history, according to a USPS news release.
Annual mail volume has declined by more than 43 billion pieces in the past five years and is continuing to decline. Total first-class mail has dropped 25 percent and single piece first-class mail — letters bearing postage stamps — has declined 36 percent in the same time frame.
Should the economy fully recovers, the postal service does not expect mail volume to return to previous peak levels, and it is projecting annual deficits for the foreseeable future.
Proposals under consideration include studying nearly 250 processing facilities for possible consolidation or closure, reducing mail processing equipment by as much as 50 percent, dramatically decreasing the nationwide transportation network, adjusting the workforce size by as many as 35,000 positions, and revising service standards for first-class mail.
“We are forced to face a new reality today,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a news release Thursday. “First-class mail supports the organization and drives network requirements. With the dramatic decline in mail volume and the resulting excess capacity, maintaining a vast national infrastructure is no longer realistic. Since 2006, we have closed 186 facilities, removed more than 1,500 pieces of mail processing equipment, decreased employee complement by more than 110,000 through attrition and reduced costs by $12 billion.”