By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The consolidation of Bluefield’s Mail Processing and Distribution Center is now underway, and should be completed by late February, postal officials said Thursday.
The Cumberland Road facility is being consolidated with the existing mail processing center in Charleston. Two employees from Bluefield have already voluntarily taken positions in Charleston, and a few others have taken positions in other locations, U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Cathy Yarosky said.
“We are still reviewing the employee impact and are working closely with HR (human resources) on this,” Yarosky said.
The move is part of a plan announced last year by Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe to consolidate 461 mail processing facilities across the country. The first 188 mail processing centers — including the facility in Bluefield — are expected to be consolidated early this year.
The actual post office at the Cumberland Road site will remain open, along with the bulk mail processing center. However, the mail processing and distribution center will be closed.
Bluefield City Manager Jim Ferguson said the news was unfortunate, but not unexpected.
“We knew it was coming,” Ferguson said. “I hate to see it happen, but we knew it was coming, and we’ll just have to accept it. They will continue with the post office there, and that’s good news.”
Yarosky said the consolidation of the Bluefield and Charleston facilities should be completed by Feb. 23. The consolidation plan for Bluefield was actually moved up by several weeks as a result of necessary label changes — an internal process used by the postal service to help track where mail came from and where it is going.
“All of our mail is labeled,” Yarosky said. “Label changes are made quarterly (nationwide). We can make them January 1, with the next date being April 1. We did not want to wait until April 1, so we decided to make the label changes Jan. 1 which means we were able to push up our implementation date for the tour three processing operations consolidation so that our transportation would align with our new service standards. We are still scheduled to implement the tour one operations on or about Feb. 23. Once we do this, the consolidations will be finished for Bluefield.”
Yarosky said the tour one and tour three terminology actually refers to eight-hour work schedules, including morning and evening shifts at the mail processing center. She said two delivery bar code sorters from Bluefield will be moved to Charleston.
Yarosky said she didn’t know what would happen to the portion of the building currently utilized for the mail processing and distribution center once all of the operations are moved to Charleston. She didn’t know if the postal service would continue to utilize the area, or if that portion of the building would revert back to the shopping center landlord.
The post office, and mail processing and distribution center, is located inside of the old Kmart building on Cumberland Road.
“That has not been determined,” Yarosky said. “I have not heard anything at all. Right now we are just concentrating on the consolidation of the operation.”
Yarosky said postal service customers utilizing the postal facilities on Cumberland Road shouldn’t notice any changes during the consolidation process.
“They aren’t going to notice any changes whatsoever,” Yarosky said. “We will maintain all of our retail operations. So unless they read about this in the newspaper, they won’t know it has happened.”
In announcing the consolidation of the mail processing centers last year, Donahoe said the consolidations were necessary to help return the postal service to long-term profitability and financial stability while keeping mail affordable.
— Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org