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Post Office: Customers raise few eyebrows over slower first-class mail

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

First-class letters going to and from the Pawleys Island area will take an extra day to reach their destinations after the Postal Service closes its Florence mail processing and distribution facility.

Mail processed at the facility will go to Columbia for processing instead. The only difference consumers will notice is that the service standard for letters mailed first-class will change from 1-3 days to 2-3 days, said Harry Spratlin, a spokesman for the postal service.

Priority and Express mail, as well as package services (parcel post) won’t be affected.

The closure of the Florence facility is a result of declining mail volume. First-class mail volume sent through the postal service has decreased 25 percent since 2006.

That equates to 43 billion fewer pieces of mail, and the trend is expected to continue, Spratlin said.

“We’re really just shrinking down to match our resources to the demand that American people are giving us,” he said.

Janet Burton of Litchfield Country Club, said she doesn’t use first-class mail often, but she’s still a little concerned about the additional delay and that it could cause bills and other time-sensitive materials to arrive late. She pays most of her bills online, she said, but “not everyone can do that. A lot of people still don’t have computers.”

Mary Ellen Cordeiro isn’t bothered by the longer delivery time since it doesn’t affect Priority mail. She mostly mails small packages and usually sends them Priority, she said.

With employees spread across the Southeast and as far west as Texas, Health Information Associates, a Litchfield-based medical coding company, sends time-sensitive materials and communications frequently, but won’t be hurt by the change, said Joel Shealy, chief operating officer.

“The majority of the time we end up using UPS,” he said. And like a lot of companies, things that once would have been posted first-class are now sent via e-mail.

That may go a long way toward explaining why postal service cuts are needed, he said.

Funding from tax dollars is not used for the sending of first-class mail. The Postal Service relies instead on proceeds from the sale of postage, postal products and services.

“The decision to consolidate mail processing facilities recognizes the urgent need to reduce the size of the national mail processing network to eliminate costly underutilized infrastructure,” said Megan Brennan, chief operating officer for the Postal Service. “Consolidating operations is necessary if the Postal Service is to remain viable to provide mail service to the nation.”

A date for the transition hasn’t been set, but it won’t happen before May 15, Spratlin said. In December, the Postal Service agreed to impose a moratorium on closing and consolidating post offices and mail processing facilities before that date to give Congress the chance enact an alternative plan.

After the moratorium passes, “then we will obey any postal reform legislation Congress comes up with between now and then,” Spratlin said. “There could be something that changes everything for this.”

Employees who will be impacted by the closure received 90 days notice that their jobs will no longer exist and they will have to bid on another job.

“We’re not expecting any layoffs. Our goal is not to have any,” Spratlin said.

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