Feb 24, 2012 6:11 AM by AP
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The U.S. Postal Service on Thursday proposed the closure of its mail-sorting center in New Orleans and a vastly reduced role for another sorting center in Lafayette.
Both incoming and outgoing mail currently processed in New Orleans would be shifted to Baton Rouge, while outgoing mail currently handled in Lafayette would be handled in Baton Rouge. The Lafayette center would continue to handle incoming mail.
It wasn't clear Thursday how many employees might be affected. Postal Service spokesman McKinney Boyd said the mail operation in New Orleans currently employs about 800, while about 200 workers could be affected in Lafayette. He said an eventual number of employees affected would depend upon how many seek transfers, retirement or other positions.
About 400 currently work at the Baton Rouge center.
The Postal Service has proposed to Congress the closure of 254 mail-sorting centers and 3,700 post offices as it deals with a $23 million-a-day loss threatening it with insolvency. Until Congress finishes studying the proposals, the Postal Service cannot act on the closure plans until at least May 15.
Boyd said the Postal Service has sustained a 3 percent annual drop in the amount of mail handled over the past five years - or about 45 billion pieces.
Following a study, the Postal Service decided to expand Baton Rouge's role because of its more-centralized location, Boyd said.
"It also gives us an opportunity to use the freeways more effectively," Boyd said. "It also gives us an opportunity to remove redundancy from the mail-processing portion of our operation."
The Postal Service's plans to reduce mail-sorting centers and post offices have raised the ire of elected officials. Thursday's announcement was no exception as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu pledged to fight "this ill-advised decision, which fails to consider all the factors that will impact future mail delivery costs and the needs of southern Louisiana."
Landrieu said the Postal Service had failed to consider that the New Orleans region has the state's only major airport, "ensuring cost-effective and timely mail processing." He also said the center was just renovated and is on a corridor filled with public and private investment.
Boyd said plans call for the post office located in the center to remain open.