May 18, 2012 9:29 AM by Laura Wilson (KAJ News)
KALISPELL- The U.S. Postmaster General is under fire from Montana politicians after announcing the closing of nearly 50 mail processing centers nationwide, including the Kalispell-area facility, but Max Baucus and Jon Tester are working to overturn that decision through a U.S. Senate reform bill.
The announcement that mail processing centers in Missoula, Butte, Helena, and Wolf Point would stay open was a big victory for Tester and Baucus, who argued keeping the facilities open would protect over one-hundred and seventy jobs.
But on Wednesday they learned 20 postal jobs are at risk as the U.S. Postal Service plans to consolidate the Kalispell processing center with Missoula's facility, although a USPS service spokesman tells us the decision is not final yet.
"Mail volumes have dropped by more than a quarter over the last five years and first class mail has declined by 50% in the last 10 years. Simply put, we have a network that's far bigger than what we have to process in it," Peter Nowacki explained.
"I'll fight tooth and nail to protect Kalispell and the 20 jobs that are on the line. I brought the Postmaster General to Montana and showed him firsthand that shutting down Montana facilities is a small-minded way to address a large-scale problem," Baucus said in a statement issued Thursday.
The USPS says the consolidation would still maintain current service standards by providing overnight service out of the Missoula processing center instead. But Baucus and Tester are still pushing for a reform bill to help override the decision.
"It's time for the House to pass our reform bill and give some much-needed certainty to postal workers and the folks who rely on timely service to receive their letters, package, prescriptions and mail ballots," Tester said in a statement.
Tester's bill would give the Postal Regulatory Commission the authority to approve cuts proposed by the Postal Service.
"This shows how important it is that the House passes our bill that will bring more people into the decision-making process and keep the Postmaster General from closing facilities on his own," Tester added.
The consolidations will begin later this summer although Kalispell's processing center is not expected to be closed until early next year.
Tester's bill now awaits a vote in the House of Representatives.