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Postal Service moves forward with closings

By Lisa Rathke
Associated Press / February 23, 2012
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MONTPELIER, Vt.—The financially troubled U.S. Postal Service is moving forward with plans to close the largest postal sorting center in Vermont as part of plans to make cuts to more than 260 mail processing centers around the country.

The 245 workers at the White River Junction plant got the news Wednesday.

"People are extremely upset. You know, people are just shaken," said William Creamer Jr., president of Local 301 of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union.

Mail processing would move to centers in Essex Junction and in Manchester, N.H., but no date for the move has been announced. The closings, which would start in mid-May, are expected to save billions of dollars but also to slow delivery of first-class mail.

The agency announced Thursday that it had completed a study of closing 252 mail processing centers that it had proposed in September. It's going ahead with nearly all of them and added as many as 12 more. About 41 facilities will not close immediately and undergo further reviews.

The move would mean letters mailed in White River Junction would be processed in Essex Junction or Manchester, N.H., which is expected to slow delivery of first-class mail. The post office window will remain open in White River Junction, where customers can buy stamps and mail letters.

Vermont's congressional delegation and governor, who spoke out against the closing at a packed public meeting with the U.S. Postal Service in White River Junction in January, have vowed to fight the change.

"We are extremely disturbed that the Postal Service intends to continue with its original plan to close the processing plant at White River Junction. We are pleased that the processing plant in Essex Junction was spared, but what we are saying loudly and clearly is that we will do all that we can to keep the White River Junction processing plant open as well."

The agency has said the plans are contingent upon it changing its delivery standards and made clear that Congress could develop a new plan to prevent the closings, the delegation said.

"A Postal Service reform bill should be on the Senate floor within several weeks," Vermont's congressional delegation said.

Tom Rizzo, a spokesman for the Postal Service region that encompasses Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, said the agency welcomes Sen. Bernie Sanders' leadership on the postal issues. "We look forward to constructive and specific steps to help the postal service thrive in the 21st century," he said.

Creamer said workers could be offered jobs elsewhere in New England.

"Their families are here and they own their homes here and it doesn't look like there are going to be any jobs within driving distance," Creamer said.

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Information from: Lebanon Valley News, http://www.vnews.com

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