The U.S. Postal Service is unveiling a new plan to shut down mail processing centers in Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, a proposal that would eliminate hundreds of eastern Iowa jobs. A plan is also in the works to close the mail processing center in Sioux City.
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says this sort of cut may be inevitable as the post office continues to lose millions of dollars, though he’s watchful. “If they’re going to be consolidating processing centers, fine, I just want to make sure that what they come up with is really cost savings in what they’re doing,” Harkin says. “Sometimes, people shuffle things around and it really doesn’t save any money at all.”
As part of its plan to cut $20-billion in spending, the postal service plans to trim the number of mail processing centers from 500 down to 175 over the next year. If the Waterloo and Cedar Rapids centers are shuttered, work would be transferred to facilities in Des Moines and Davenport.
“We have to decide whether we want to keep the name, the United States Postal Service,” Harkin says. “Is it a service or is it not? If it’s a service, then we have to be willing to understand that sometimes services don’t always break even. They don’t make money. This is not FedEx and this is not UPS, this is a postal service.”
Reports say closing the Cedar Rapids processing center alone would cost about 200 jobs. In the past three years, mail volume nationally has fallen 20%, as more consumers seek alternatives, including e-mail.
“I understand there’s going to be some contractions,” Harkin says. “It’s not like it used to be. I just want to be careful that it truly is saving us money and preserving the service.” Last year, the post office operated at a loss of around eight-and-a-half million dollars. One estimate shows the U.S.P.S. going broke by next fall.