By LEANN McCOY
The third time was not the charm for Grenada’s area mail processing facility.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announced Thursday that the processing capabilities will be consolidated with Jackson, but it has not been made official as to when this move will occur. The postal service has agreed to not close any facilities before May 15.
The consolidation was first announced and studied in 2010 and later put on hold to study the consolidation of Tupelo’s facilities with Grenada.
According to Doug Kyle, an official with the USPS Mississippi District in Jackson, Grenada is one of four mail processing that will be closing in Mississippi.
Processing operations in Gulfport and Hattiesburg will move to Mobile, Ala., and services in Tupelo will transfer to a facility in Memphis. This will leave Jackson with the only area mail processing facility in the state, Kyle said.
Postal officials presented a feasibility study in December that initially supported the consolidation amid outcry from the citizenry to not close the facility.
According to details from that meeting, the consolidation would save the postal service $1.2 million a year at an estimated net loss of 21 jobs in Grenada.
“The consolidation is contingent on the approval of proposed changes in service standards for first class mail and periodicals,” Kyle said. “The proposal changes first class service standards from the current one, two and three day delivery standards to two and three day delivery.”
Periodicals would have the one day delivery standard eliminated.
“There aren’t any other changes in any other classes mail, such as priority mail and express mail,” Kyle said. “It is important to note that more than half of first class mail, 59 percent, is already being delivered under the two and three day service standards.”
Kyle said that a change in service standards would only affect anyone who currently sends or receives mail under the one-day service standard.
“The public is most familiar with first class mail, typically the 45 cent stamp they put on their letters,” Kyle said.
According to Kyle, the USPS is making the move to consolidation because of drastic declines in first class mail. There is no indication the downward trend will change, he said.
“First class mail volumes peaked in 2006 and have declined 25 percent since then,” Kyle said. “Given the economic crisis the postal service is working to overcome, clearly a fundamental change in how we process and deliver mail must be part of the plan.”
Overall, the project cost savings from the nationwide consolidation would be $2.1 billion annually.
“From the public meetings held in Grenada, it is clear that mail is still important to customers and a vital part of the economy,” Kyle said, “but it is equally important that we make the changes that will keep the postal service viable and mail service available for years to come.”
Kyle said that although the feasibility study showed a loss of 21 jobs, the postal service does not know exactly how many of the 85 jobs currently at the Grenada center will be affected.
“Affected employees will be offered other positions within the postal service as established contractually and legally,” Kyle said. “We have already been communicating with all the employees at the four locations and sharing as much information as we have available.”
Mayor Billy Collins said the consolidation is something the city does not support.
“We opposed it during the two meetings they’ve had,” Collins said. “As mayor, I am concerned that the service’s reliability and consistency will go down.”
Collins said he did understand that the postal service was seeing hard times, but his biggest concerns was seeing the loss of jobs locally.
“We could lose 20 or more jobs, and that will hurt the community with the recent announcement that another industry will be closing, too,” Collins said. “I do think we will see a delay in the service no matter what is said.”
District 24 Representative Kevin Horan said he did not agree with the consolidation but understood that everything that could be done was done.
“Everyone has done what they could to save the service, but in the end, it was not enough,” Horan said. “I do hate that we are losing jobs, especially during this time when unemployment is high and we are losing jobs in other industries in the area. Grenada is taking some hits, but as always, we will keep going.”