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Closing mail sorting plants put on hold

Pressure from Congress also delays shuttering of post offices

Just days after top U.S. Postal Service officials said they were moving ahead to close mail sorting facilities nationwide, the agency halted the plans Tuesday amid pressure from members of Congress.

The Postal Service, in a three paragraph statement, said it was delaying closure of sorting plants and post offices across the country until May because of a request by "multiple U.S. Senators."

"The Postal Service hopes this period will help facilitate the enactment of comprehensive postal legislation," officials said in the statement.

Still, officials said they were going to continue all "necessary steps" required for the review of post offices and mail processing plants, including scheduling public meetings.

Last week, David E. Williams, vice president for network operations at the Postal Service, announced at a news briefing that the mail service was ending overnight delivery of first-class mail and moving ahead to shut down about half of its 461 mail sorting facilities. Separately, officials also were considering closing about 3,700 post offices.

But the plans encountered immediate opposition in Congress, with a key Democrat, Sen. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, chairman of the subcommittee overseeing mail delivery, calling the plans "less than ideal."

On Tuesday, Mr. Carper said many of his colleagues had "very reasonable" concerns about the Postal Service moving to slash its operations at a time when Congress "is moving closer to provide the Postal Service a financial lifeline."

He said the postal bill he's authored would suspend all postal closings until new service standards are in place. The legislation also would set out new procedures for closing sorting facilities.

"The point of these provisions is not to protect any particular postal facility," Mr. Carper said.

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