Augusta processing center closing could cause problems

Wait a minute, Mr. Postman

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011 11:34 PM
Last updated Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 9:29 AM
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U.S. Postal Service representatives might get an earful at tonight’s public meeting about the closing of half of the country’s mail processing centers, including the one in Augusta.

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Postal worker Patrick Haynie gathers mail from drop-off boxes. "It doesn't make much sense," Haynie said Wednesday of the proposal to close the mail processing plant in Augusta.  Emily Rose Bennett/Staff
Emily Rose Bennett/Staff
Postal worker Patrick Haynie gathers mail from drop-off boxes. "It doesn't make much sense," Haynie said Wednesday of the proposal to close the mail processing plant in Augusta.

Among those sharing his opinion could be Randolph Frails, who said the Postal Service’s newest cost-costing proposal could seriously affect his law practice.

Asa lawyer, Frails has to have certain legal documents sent by mail.

“That’s going to be a problem,” Frails said of the proposal to close Augusta’s mail processing plant and send all first-class mail to Macon, Ga., or Columbia for processing. The loss of the mail processing center would mean delays for first-class mail from one to two days to two to three days, the Postal Service estimates.

The possibility of mail delays could be trouble for people who vote by absentee ballots, said Lynn Bailey, the director of the Richmond County Board of Elections.

Under state law, absentee ballots are mailed out on the Friday before an election. They must be returned by 7 p.m. Tuesday, election day, to be valid, Bailey said.

If it will take two to three days for a ballot to travel through the mail each way, absentee might no longer be a voting option.

“I think it could be a problem under current Georgia law,” she said. In the 2008 general election, about 10,000 paper ballots were mailed out, Bailey said.

The Columbia County water department uses the mail to send and receive payments. The bills go out on the last day of the month and about 99 percent of customers will get them on the first day of the next month, Operations Manager Mark Inglett said.

If there are going to be delays, the department might need to adjust timing, Inglett said. Bills are due by the 15th of the month.

“The last thing we want to do is cause any inconvenience to our customers,” he said.

Stephen A. Seewoester, the Postal Service media contact for the Augusta area, wrote in an e-mail that the Postal Service studied geography, facility capacity, transportation networksand equipment to determine which mail processing centers should be closed or expanded.

“In the past couple of years we have removed more than 1,500 pieces of equipment, along with $1.9 billion in costs,” he said.

Since 2006, 17 processing facilities marked for closing were allowed to continue operations when it was determined little or no savings would be gained or there were logistical challenges and capacity issues, Seewoester wrote.

The Postal Service recently submitted its plans to the postal regulatory commissioner for an advisory opinion.

The plans also include closing Georgia facilities in Columbus, Valdosta, Savannah, Athens, Albany and Waycross.

The closings were to start as early as April, but they are now delayed until mid-May.

“I’m happy to hear that the Postal Service has decided to delay these closures until May,” said U.S. Rep. John Barrow, who represents 12th District, which stretches from Savannah to Augusta. “I’ll work with members of both parties to make sure the Postal Service remains financially solvent and maintains the quality service folks and small businesses in Augusta expect and need.”

Press Secretary T. Peyton Bell said Wednesday that Barrow will have a representative at the meeting today.

Rep. Paul C. Broun, whose 10th District includes Richmond and Columbia counties, had no comment when his office was contacted.

U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia both said the Postal Service might have to bite the bullet and cut expenses to remain financially solvent, but both pledged to do what they can to minimize the impact on Georgia residents.

Evans lawyer John Garcia said that he thinks the impact on his business will be minor but that it will depend on how long the delay turns out to be.

Some court documents have to be delivered through the mail or by hand, he said. If he has to use hand delivery or next-day service, it will cost clients more money.

The closings and anticipated delays will open up the Postal Service to more competition, said Barbara Coleman, the associate dean of the Hull College of Business at Augusta State University.

Though FedEx and UPS might not be able to do daily deliveries, other businesses could jump into the competition, she said.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: U.S. Postal Service public meeting

WHEN: 6 p.m. today

WHERE: Kroc Center

THE PLAN

The Postal Service has devised plans to close 3,700 local post offices and 252 mail processing centers. Consolidation would save more than $3 billion a year, according to the Postal Service.

Closing the Augusta mail processing plant would save $4.98 million each year, according to the Postal Service. It expects the loss of 30 jobs, with 80 Augusta employees transferring to expanded plants in Macon, Ga., or Columbia.

The Postal Service announced Tuesday that it was delaying the closures until mid-May to give Congress time to pass legislation that could help it stay solvent.

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Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 12/15/11 - 02:31 am
0
0
If they would manage their

If they would manage their business appropriatley to begin with then we wouldn't be in the mess we are now in. Private business simply does most things far better than the government. The waste in the Post Office is out of control and like it or not, major changes are needed.

No one is ever happy when closures or reductions of service direclty effect the area in which they live, that is why government generally only grows. However, costs MUST be cut, offices, closed, etc. and if Augusta is on the list - I may not prefer it but I certainly support them becoming efficient and self sustaining.

seenitB4
84100
Points
seenitB4 12/15/11 - 09:25 am
0
0
Yep Houston we have a

Yep Houston we have a problem.....
There are ways to cut back...omit Sat delivery& etc.---BUT closing down the 2nd largest city in Ga....????....some areas would have an advantage with mail service & it wouldn't be Augusta....that matters to a business....retire w/incentives to go & cut 1day service delivery..

bjphysics
36
Points
bjphysics 12/15/11 - 09:28 am
0
0
How does this impact the ever

How does this impact the ever growing online shopping sector?

seenitB4
84100
Points
seenitB4 12/15/11 - 10:17 am
0
0
I would much rather see my $$

I would much rather see my $$ go to keeping the POfc. afloat than sent to other countries that can't stand us....

Piperpig
9
Points
Piperpig 12/15/11 - 10:23 am
0
0
Could not agree more

Could not agree more seenitb4. It is absurd that Augusta-Aiken's 525,000 residents will have our mail trucked to Macon just to get processed. If anything, why not send all of our mail to Columbia for processing? My business does most of our work in SC. Does our mail from Augusta go to Macon and then to South Carolina?

KNECKBONE
26
Points
KNECKBONE 12/15/11 - 12:14 pm
0
0
i say we charge people not

i say we charge people not from augusta 50 dollars more to get into the masters -and give the money to post office ha ha.thanks now how will i get my grandama's christmas check and cookies .seriously poor people needing there checks gonna be screwed .Merry Christmas

Fools_and_sages
360
Points
Fools_and_sages 12/15/11 - 12:21 pm
0
0
Augusta is the second largest
Unpublished

Augusta is the second largest city in the State of GA. It has a healthy economy (compared to most of the rest of the state) and that it based largely on manufacturing and a variety of businesses large and small. We also have one of the largest military bases in the country in our midst. Why exactly don't we need a postal processing center? It is ridiculous to have to send our mail to Columbia or Macon to have it processed.

More practically, all of us will have to get used to paying late fees to Augusta Utilities for our water bills. As it is, despite the fact that my water meter is read around the 18th of the month, my water bill doesn't arrive until sometime between the 5th and 7th of the next month and it is due on the 15th. Even if I use electronic bill pay to pay it, Augusta Utilities doesn't have a "relationship" with my bank and the bank still has to cut a check and send it, which takes up to five days. I have been assessed late fees twice this year because it supposedly took more than a week for a check to go from Wheeler Rd. to Greene St. and we have a mail processing center in Augusta! With the demise of the processing center, will Augusta Utilities extend their payment window or institute a grace period? Probably not. Will they remove the processing/convenience fee from paying it on their website? Probably not. Will they set up "relationships" with local banks to actually work with online bill pay systems? Probably not. Will they start to process payments when they arrive, instead of letting them sit on somebody's desk or in the mailroom for days? Probably not.

Hill Drug better get larger and the water department better hire more counter help so that Augustans can go stand in line and wait to pay their bill in person. Nothing like being taken back over a a couple decades in the blink of an eye. Maybe we should bring back the Pony Express so we can live in the mid-nineteenth century. I hear carrier pigeons worked well in the early 20th century. Oh! Wait!! We can still be 21st century! We will just have to start sending stuff via owls like they do in Harry Potter!

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 12/15/11 - 05:32 pm
0
0
I definetly agree that there

I definetly agree that there are other ways for reductions and that Saturday mail should be cut across the board.

I also agree with seenitb4 - it is one thing to help others but when you are not able to take care of your own needs, helping other countries needs to be scaled back.

Little Lamb
44845
Points
Little Lamb 12/15/11 - 05:54 pm
0
0
AsItIs wrote: I definitely

AsItIs wrote:

I definitely agree that there are other ways for reductions and that Saturday mail should be cut across the board.

I would prefer to keep Saturday mail delivery and do away with Monday mail delivery.

BuckeyeInGA
114
Points
BuckeyeInGA 12/15/11 - 06:07 pm
0
0
Our US representative, Paul

Our US representative, Paul Broun, is out of touch - literally. He's from Athens and historically has not been big on Augusta (except at election time). Quoting the above news article - "Rep. Paul C. Broun, whose 10th District includes Richmond and Columbia counties, had no comment when his office was contacted." Call me selfish but Augusta needs to elect one of its own (an Augustan) to represent us in Washington DC in the next election.

John Locke
295
Points
John Locke 12/15/11 - 07:30 pm
0
0
""If they would manage their

""If they would manage their business appropriatley to begin with then we wouldn't be in the mess we are now in. Private business simply does most things far better than the government. The waste in the Post Office is out of control and like it or not, major changes are needed. "" Yep and just being open hours when folks could patronize them would be a start. Just the other day I went to mail a package (it is the holiday season after all) and went to the Evans PO. It was 5:30 pm on my way home from work. Guess what - they were closed. No holiday hours, no one there to take my money - Geez, how stupid. Thinking outside the box is definately not their thing, I mean, why aren't they open from 11 - 7 each day? Saturdays 10 - 3? I'd spend a LOT more money there if they were open when I needed them, not when they wanted to be. Good riddance, they offer me nothing.

dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 12/16/11 - 12:30 am
0
0
Maybe the postal workers
Unpublished

Maybe the postal workers union could pay off some of the postal service's debt and have the postal workers take a cut in pay to keep
the processing plant in Augusta. Oh, maybe cut some of the workers benefits that would help also. I'm sure the workers and union would agree to this.

lazerbeam
0
Points
lazerbeam 12/16/11 - 09:37 pm
0
0
People always want to say

People always want to say it's the way the Post office is running it's business. Yes there are some faults. People need to realize the billions of dollars the post office has lost and is losing every day due to electronic billing, online banking and other online services now being offered. If you want to help, start receiving paper statements again for bills and banking for starters.

They will have to make some changes too but it's not all of there fault. Congress is also keeping them from making changes that could prevent some of these closings.

My husband's job is hanging in the balance on this closing. I lost my job already so now the possibility of him losing his job has us really worried.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
Points
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 12/16/11 - 11:00 pm
0
0
This will hurt many more

This will hurt many more people in Augusta than just Mail Employees.

itsanotherday
0
Points
itsanotherday 12/17/11 - 12:38 am
0
0
lazerbeam, I'm so sorry you
Unpublished

lazerbeam, I'm so sorry you and your husband are struggling, particularly in this Christmas season. I sincerely hope your husband's job stays secure until he can at least find something else.

The bottom line is though, mail is going the way of horse and buggy; slowly, but surely. I've thought for a long time that the Fed should cut the Post Office loose and let it sink or swim on its own. If there is demand, it will swim, if not, it will sink. Run as a private entity with no political pressures, they could hire/fire, close non-essential offices in places like Jewell Ga and other wide spots in the road, deliver every other day (eliminating 50% of the carrer positions), and so on.

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