Tester: Montana’s mail processing centers are a lifeline for rural America
Senator says closing centers would ‘erode quality of mail service’ across Montana
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is hammering home the importance of the U.S. Postal Service’s mail processing centers for Montanans who depend upon the reliable delivery of necessary goods and services.
The Postal Service recently proposed closing Missoula’s and Kalispell’s mail processing centers after already closing four Montana centers earlier this year. Mail processing centers sort time-sensitive mail and are critical to delivery time, meaning further closures would delay mail delivery across western Montana.
In advance of a public meeting scheduled Tuesday night in Missoula to discuss the proposed closures, Tester today sent a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.
“Montanans use mail service for business that’s often hard to imagine outside Montana,” Tester wrote. “You can often hear live chicks peeping in local post offices each spring. Medicines for veterans and seniors also arrive by mail because pharmacies are few and far between. Each year more Montanans vote by mail using absentee ballots.”
Under the Postal Service’s proposal, mail being mailed from or sent to western Montana would first be sent to Spokane, Wash., for sorting, likely increasing delivery time by at least a day, and longer in bad weather.
Tester added that Montana’s size must be taken into account when considering how delays in service would impact Montanans and highlighted the recent improvements made at the Missoula processing facility.
“Already Montanans are shouldering their fair share of cost-cutting by the Postal Service,” Tester wrote. “However, the closure of these two additional processing facilities would unacceptably undermine mail service in western Montana. I urge you to reconsider and look to other areas of the Postal Service’s budget where costs can be diminished without harming service in Montana and rural America.”
Tester’s staff will attend tonight’s meeting in Missoula about the proposed closures, as well as Kalispell’s on Thursday night. Tester recently directed his Montana staff to attend as many public outreach meetings as possible to gather input from Montanans.
Tester, a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee that has jurisdiction over the Postal Service, has worked tirelessly to ensure that the Postal Service doesn’t balance its books on the back of Rural America. Earlier this month, the panel passed Tester’s bipartisan bill to prevent the Postal Service from closing rural post offices until it establishes clear criteria for determining whether a post office should be closed and fully considers alternative ways to save money.
Tester’s letter to Donahoe appears below and online HERE.
November 29, 2011
Mr. Patrick Donahoe
Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer
United States Postal Service
458 L’Enfant Plaza Southwest
Washington D.C., DC 20024-2114
Dear Postmaster General Donahoe:
I am concerned about the U.S. Postal Service’s proposal to close Area Mail Processing facilities in Missoula and Kalispell. This proposal would further erode the quality of mail service in Montana. Individuals and small business owners, especially those in rural communities, need fast and reliable service to maintain access to necessary medicines, equipment, correspondence, paychecks and even election ballots. In order to maintain our way of life, Montanans and rural Americans rely on the Postal Service more significantly than folks in urban and suburban areas.
Already this year, the Postal Service has closed four of Montana’s Area Mail Processing centers, leaving only five sites in the state to sort time-sensitive mail. Additional closures are unacceptable and will cause further delays in mail delivery.
Montanans use mail service for business that’s often hard to imagine outside Montana. You can often hear live chicks peeping in local post offices each spring. Medicines for veterans and seniors also arrive by mail because pharmacies are few and far between. Each year more Montanans vote by mail using absentee ballots.
If the Kalispell and Missoula processing facilities are closed and mail is shipped to Spokane for sorting, western Montana would have to rely solely on out-of-state sorting facilities. This would undoubtedly increase the time it takes to send and receive mail in western Montana by at least one day, and often several days during bad weather.
Given the geographic size of our state, Montanans are used to driving long distances on often icy roads for daily errands. However, if these proposed closures become reality, delivery will take even longer than before. Folks waiting for paychecks, medicines and equipment will have to bear the risks of further delays, and many folks will further reduce their use of the Postal Service.
Furthermore, it is my understanding that the Postal Service recently invested significant resources into new equipment and upgrades at the Missoula facility. To waste this investment would be a grave mistake.
Finally, I am particularly concerned by the impact of this proposal on Montana's elections. In Montana many voters have embraced their right to vote by mail. In the 2010 general election, 47 percent of voters cast absentee ballots. Montana state law allows the submission of absentee ballot applications until noon the day before election day, but requires absentee ballots to arrive at the county election office by the time the polls close on election. By delaying mail delivery by at least a day, these closures risk disenfranchising Montanans and eroding the representative democracy of which we as Montanans and Americans are so proud.
Already Montanans are shouldering their fair share of cost-cutting by the Postal Service. However, the closure of these two additional processing facilities would unacceptably undermine mail service in western Montana. I urge you to reconsider and look to other areas of the Postal Service’s budget where costs can be diminished without harming service in Montana and rural America.