TERRE HAUTE —
The Terre Haute mail processing operation on Margaret Avenue would close next January, according to information provided to the American Postal Workers Union in Washington, D.C., on Thursday afternoon.
“The plan is to close the Terre Haute plant in January. That’s the preliminary information we were given” by the U.S. Postal Service, said Doug Brown, president of the Indiana Postal Workers Union.
Bloomington and Columbus processing centers would close this summer, while those at Terre Haute, Kokomo and Gary would close in January, Brown said.
But the USPS also says — once again — its latest consolidation plans could change if Congress takes action that would provide the agency with financial relief, Brown said Friday. “We’re in limbo just like the public. It almost changes hourly sometimes,” he said.
On Thursday, the U.S. Postal Service announced it is moving forward with plans to consolidate a number of mail processing operations across the country. The first phase of activities will result in up to 140 consolidations through February, the USPS said in a news release.
“The decision to move mail processing operations from Terre Haute to Indianapolis will begin this summer,” said Mary Dando, USPS Indiana spokeswoman, on Thursday.
In August, mail originating in Terre Haute in areas starting with zip codes 475 and 478 will go to Indianapolis for processing, Dando said.
The prefix 478 includes Terre Haute, Rockville, Brazil, Clinton, Sullivan, Dana and Carlisle, said Ann Barnes, president of the American Postal Workers Local 618 in Terre Haute. The 475 prefix includes areas south of Carlisle, such as Vincennes, Washington and Loogootee.
In a news release, the USPS said it will begin consolidating operations this summer, but “due to the volume of high-priority mail predicted for the election and holiday mailing seasons, no consolidating activities will be conducted from September through December.”
The consolidation would then resume early next year.
“Approximately 5,000 employees will begin receiving notifications next week related to consolidating and other efficiency-enhancing activities to be conducted this summer,” the news release stated.
Dando said Thursday she did not have further information about what would happen in Terre Haute early next year.
According to Brown, while mail originating in Terre Haute would be sent to Indianapolis for processing sometime this summer, mail that comes here from other places would continue to be sorted in machines here for letter carrier delivery, at least until January.
If the closure occurs here, he predicts a reduction in service, with first-class mail taking longer to arrive at its destination. He also believes dozens of postal employees at the Terre Haute plant would have to relocate to other USPS facilities. Under the union contract, no employee can be laid off.
“The only way to reduce the workforce would be to provide an incentive to entice people to retire,” he said, and that is something under discussion between the union and USPS.
If an early retirement incentive is approved, and if Congress takes action that provides the agency with financial relief, it should not be necessary to close the mail processing operations, Brown said. “The Postal Service has said it will do so unless Congress acts.”
Barnes said that a letter from the USPS was read to Terre Haute employees earlier this week.
“They are giving us vague details. Employees are all upset again,” she said. “It’s hard when you don’t have all the answers.”
The letter indicated the USPS was moving forward with a consolidation plan, although it would proceed more slowly, she said. Officials indicated that Terre Haute outbound mail would go to Indianapolis “sometime this summer.” That would affect the 3 to 11 p.m. shift at the mail processing operation in Terre Haute.
What exactly that would mean for those employees is unclear, she said. “They don’t have all the details worked out yet,” she said.
Mail originating in Terre Haute, even if it’s to a Terre Haute address, would first go to Indianapolis and then come back here to be delivered, she said. Postal officials say that shouldn’t cause a delay in delivery, “but there has to be,” Barnes said.
Incoming mail would continue to be sorted and prepared for carrier delivery by the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, Barnes said.
Terre Haute postal service employees have been upset for almost a year now, she said. They keep receiving different messages about whether the mail processing operation will close or not. “It’s almost like the little boy who cried wolf,” Barnes said.
On Friday, Dando indicated that Terre Haute first-class mail sent to another Terre Haute address, even if processed in Indianapolis, “will get there overnight.” But she also clarified those items should be mailed “preferably as early as possible.”
The USPS postmaster general has said that in the absence of anything concrete from Congress, the consolidations must move forward. “We’re losing $25 million per day. We have no choice,” Dando said. “It’s difficult, but everyone is trying to do right by everyone else.”
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or email@example.com.