Postal Service Sorting Centers May Consolidate with Champaign

September 15, 2011

The U.S. Postal Service may close its Bloomington Mail Processing Center, and some of those services could be coming to Champaign.

The Postal Service is announcing feasibility studies to consolidate ten operations in Illinois, including the 158 Bloomington sorting and handling jobs. By early next year, the agency will have looked at whether it makes sense to move the Bloomington functions to Champaign and Peoria. The Postal Service may also consolidate Effingham's operations into Champaign. The agency's Valerie Welsch said union agreements will determine whether jobs are simply cut or relocated. She said the study for Bloomington will be done in February or March.

The service said it's facing one of the most difficult challenges in history, with first class mail volume dropping by 25 percent in the last five years. Postal Service spokeswoman Beverly Howard said technology changes likely make that a permanent drop.

"We don't look at the volume, even with the economy picking back up, with it coming back to the levels that it needs to be," said Howard, who says the USPS wants to reduce about 40-percent of its capacity in the Great Lakes region.

Howard added that transportation and logistic networks are going to be changed.

"Just the capacity within the processing plant (will be examined)," he said. "Some are larger than others, come can hold certain types of equipment, and in some cases, carrier routes may be in the facilities, so we're looking at all of that."

Letters with postage stamps, or single piece first class mail, has dropped 36 percent in the same period. Bloomington Mayor Steve Stockton said he hopes to reach out to the postmaster to find out what role citizens can play in the study. He said he hopes an argument can be made for Bloomington to gain jobs instead.

"Because of Bloomington's central location, I would hope they would consider the possiblity of consolidating other areas into Bloomington," said Stockton. "That's worked well with things like the airport which has gained from its central location."

The postal service will hold public hearings in areas marked for consolidation after it completes the study, and says it will consult its major corporate users, like State Farm Insurance. The Bloomington facility processes 8.5 pieces of mail a week for the Bloomington-Normal, Lasalle-Peru, and Kankakee areas.

Story source: WILL