Huntsville mail processing center may relocate to Birmingham

There could be changes to how mail will be processed in North Alabama next year. The U.S. Postal Service is proposing to merge the mail processing center in Huntsville with the one in Birmingham.

The Postal Service held a meeting at Decatur Utilities Wednesday night to gather public input on the proposal.

If the consolidation with Birmingham goes through, Postal Service officials said it would support a 2 to 3 day service delivery standard for first-class mail. This means there could be potential delays to mail delivery by one day.

"A possible delay, but we are asking our customers to put something in the mail a day or two earlier. If you're sending a card to your grandma, mail it earlier," said Postal Service spokesperson Debra Fetterly.

Fetterly said there will be no layoffs if the Huntsville center is shuttered. Instead, employees will move to other post office locations.

Postal officials said the consolidation is a cost-saving measure. In recent years, the Postal Service has seen a decline in first-class mail use and is considering ways to save money.

Merging with the Birmingham Mail Processing Center would save the Postal Service more that $8 million according to a study that looked into the measure's impact. Fetterly said this includes maintenance, transportation, and employee savings.

While no jobs will be cut, Fetterly explained $3 million employee savings will come from future retirees whose positions will not be filled if the consolidation is approved.

Postal workers voiced their concerns at Wednesday night's meeting. Postal worker and Huntsville resident Ray Dunavant said if the measure passes, Huntsville will lose its historic postmark; something that Dunavant says is an emblem of a community.

Dunavant also worried about medications being sent without an overnight delivery option.

"Basically it will be slowed where you will not have your next day delivery for first class mail in particular. This again, will have an impact on medication as far as diabetics...where mail is delivered in cool packs. Medication may end up melting and the medication may not end up being good," said Dunavant.

The Postal Service will gather public feedback until Dec. 29. Written comments may be sent to Manager, Consumer and Industry Contact, Alabama District, P.O. Box 395, Birmingham AL.

A final decision will not be made until Jan. 2012, according to Fetterly.

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