The U.S. Mail processing facility in Fort Dodge is closing this month, four months ahead of schedule. U.S. Postal Service officials had announced the facility would be closed in January of 2012 and mail sorted at the Fort Dodge plant would be sorted at the processing facility in suburban Des Moines. Richard Watkins, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Services, says with a 20 percent decline in mail volume since 2007, it makes sense to consolidate operations.
“Forty years ago when the Post Office Department went to the independent U.S. Postal Service our mail processing network consisted of more than 2000 facilities,” Watkins says. “Of course given the significant drop in mail volume over the past few years today that number has been reduced to fewer than 300.” The Fort Dodge facility has been sorting mail from 75 post offices in north central Iowa.
“Certainly it’s not as large an operation as takes place in Des Moines. That’s the largest mail-sorting center in the state,” Watkins says. “But again using the economies of scale, bringing it down to the main post office, the processing center in Des Moines, will certainly help the Postal Service achieve those efficiencies.”
Officials expect closing the Fort Dodge processing facility will save the Postal Service over a million dollars a year. “It will impact fewer than a dozen employees,” Watkins says, “but they will be reassigned to other positions within the Postal Service, working with the unions and the management associations to minimize the impact it will have on our employees.”
The Postal Service has plans to close another processing facility in Iowa, the one in Sioux City, and shift the mail that goes there to a mail-sorting center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Iowa’s entire congressional delegation and the state’s governor are protesting, and Watkins says the Postal Service is “crunching the numbers” and providing the data to Iowa’s elected representatives in Des Moines and Washington, D.C.
“Just given the fact that the Postal Service’s mail volume (is declining), and because we’re not tax-supported we rely on that mail volume to pay for our operations, these are the right things to do and it won’t impact mail service,” Watkins says. “There will be some changes in service standards. Some of the mail that had been taking two days will be overnight. Conversely, some mail that had been overnight will be two-day service, but the vast majority of mail won’t be impacted at all.”
That change in “service standards” will also be seen in the letters and packages sent at the 75 north central Iowa post offices which were being sorted in Fort Dodge. Once that mail’s sent to Des Moines for sorting, some of the mail which had been taking two days to deliver will be delivered overnight, while some of the more distant destinations that were close to Fort Dodge and had been getting overnight delivery will see a two-day turn-around.