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USPS budget cuts could close Athens County processing center

The U.S. Postal Service has proposed changes that could eliminate up to 35,000 positions and close more than 250 processing centers nationwide, which could also mean 15 fewer jobs in Athens County.

The Athens Customer Service Mail Processing Center, located at 5 W. Stimson Ave., is one of 252 centers nationwide that will be studied and possibly closed as part of the proposal. Nine other Ohio centers in Akron, Canton, Chillicothe, Cincinnati, Dayton, Ironton, Steubenville, Toledo and Youngtown could also be closed.

A mail processing facility receives and distributes mail destined for specific ZIP Codes, and the Stimson Avenue location is one of more than 10 Postal Service offices in Athens County.

Along with the 35,000 positions nationwide and 2,900 statewide that could be eliminated if the centers close, 15 positions will be lost in Athens, said Victor Dubina, a Postal Service spokesman.

A change affecting customers is that first-class mail will take two to three days, instead of one to two, to arrive because the mail would be processed at the center in Columbus instead of the one in Athens, he added. The Postal Service could start announcing closures as early as March. The proposed changes would save up to $3 billion a year, according to a release from the U.S. Postal Service.

The financial woes stem from a 2006 law that required the Postal Service to begin pre-funding retirement for all its employees, costing $5.5 billion a year, said Terry Grant, president of the Ohio Postal Workers Union.

Dubina also cited a decreasing volume of mail as another reason for the deficit, attributing the decrease to the fact that 50 percent of people now pay their bills online.

The service handled 213 billion pieces of mail in 2006, but only 167 billion in 2010.

“We are seeing decreasing revenue. We are losing money. We are mandated to deliver. We have to figure out how to pay for that part,” Dubina said.

Because the service’s workers are unionized, the positions will be gone but the workers will still have jobs, Dubina said, adding that they will be moved to a different facility.

“The post office is in serious financial distress from Congress—they are looking at closing offices to save money. But the Postal Service is a service to the American people … a reminder that the government is there and alive and well,” Dubina said.

Even with the possible major chances to the Postal Service, Dubina said the public will see few changes.

“Post offices stay. Carriers stay. From a customer point of view, nobody will see differences,” Dubina said.

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