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Susan Collins calls for moratorium on postal plant consolidation

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins speaks Tuesday, April 3, 2012 in Westbrook.
By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

HAMPDEN, Maine — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and three other senators are urging the postmaster general not to proceed with a planned national consolidation of postal facilities until Congress has had a chance to sign postal reform legislation into law.

Collins and Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; and Scott Brown, R-Mass., sent a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe on Tuesday asking him to delay the start of a planned nationwide consolidation plan by the U.S. Postal Service. The plan would include the shifting of processing duties from the Eastern Maine Processing and Distribution Center in Hampden to the Southern Maine Processing and Distribution Center in Scarborough.

Donahoe had no official response to the letter as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to Tom Rizzo, spokesman for the USPS Northern New England District.

Employees at the Hampden facility were told it was one of 183 nationwide found to be suitable for consolidation as the USPS tries to cut $20 billion in operating costs by 2015 in an effort to turn a profit.

The consolidation would mean the loss or relocation of 170 of the 183 total positions at the Hampden facility and would make the Scarborough plant the only processing facility in Maine. Hampden would continue as a distribution facility for mail carriers.

In the letter, the senators asked that the moratorium on plant closings, which is due to expire on May 15, be extended until Congress has passed a final postal reform bill.

Last week, the Senate passed the 21st Century Postal Service Act, sponsored by Collins and the other three senators, by a 62-37 vote. The bill includes a one-year moratorium on closures of small, rural post offices unless there is no significant community opposition. It also encourages the USPS to work with communities to explore options such as locating post offices within retail store spaces or sharing space with other government agencies. The bill also relieves some of the financial pressures on the USPS created by a previous Senate bill requiring overfunding of retiree health benefits and the Federal Employees Retirement System. Current law requires the USPS to fund $75 billion over a 10-year period ending in 2017.

Collins authored a key provision that would mandate certain overnight delivery standards in some areas, effectively ensuring the continued operation of the Hampden facility.

The House has yet to take any action on the bill.

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