Tester critical of move: Butte mail operations now in Billings

Montana Standard

by John Grant Emeigh

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester sent the U.S. Postmaster General a critical letter this week berating the Postal Service’s recent decision to move Butte’s mail processing operations from Great Falls to Billings.

Tester also urged the Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to postpone the move until it can better inform and get input from the Butte public.

The senator said processing Butte’s outgoing mail in Billings is inefficient because the cities are more than 200 miles apart. Tester suggested that the Missoula post office would have been a better choice and criticized the Postal Service for not planning the move efficiently.

“This lack of planning leaves customers with undoubtedly worse service,” Tester wrote in the two-page letter dated Wednesday.

The consolidation of the Butte mail processing in Billings was done Tuesday, according to Pete Nowaki, the spokesman for the postal region that includes Montana. The U.S. Postal Service made the decision in April to move Butte’s mail processing to Billings in an effort to save money and increase efficiency. This is part of the Postal Service’s larger plan to reduce costs by $20 billion by 2015.

“The Postal Service does not have the mail volume to justify the size and capacity of its current mail processing network. To return to long-term profitability and financial stability while keeping mail affordable, we must match our network to the anticipated workload,” Nowaki said in a written statement to The Montana Standard Thursday.

Nowaki said he didn’t know how the move will affect jobs at the Butte Post Office.

Tester calls the move a “short-term business decision” that wasn’t fully thought out and will erode cuustomer confidence.

“At a very minimum, I expect the Postal Service to do a better job of informing the communities affected and evaluate public input before making a decision of such magnitude,” Tester wrote.

Tester’s press secretary Dan Malessa told The Montana Standard Thursday afternoon that Tester expects to get a response from the postmaster general by next week, Malessa said.

The postal service stopped processing mail in Butte in 2012 and moved the operation to Great Falls in the wake of much protest for the public and local leaders.