Toledo will keep its mail-processing center until at least 2014 under a plan the U.S. Postal Service announced on Thursday -- but its fate beyond then is unclear.
The Postal Service, which is facing massive budget shortfalls, said it would close nearly half of its 461 mail-processing centers across the nation. The closures will take place in two phases. Operations at the first 140 facilities will be transferred to larger processing centers by February, 2013. The move will save the postal service $1.2 billion annually and will reduce its work force by 13,000 employees.
While Toledo's processing plant is not on the list of closures, it's also not on the list of facilities that will absorb the work of the closing plants. That could be troublesome because the Postal Service plans to close another 89 plants by February, 2014.
David Van Allen, regional spokesman for the Postal Service, said an announcement about those additional closures would be made in the future.
"Right now, we're focusing on this first phase," he said.
The Toledo processing plant, located on South St. Clair Street, employs 338 people, Mr. Van Allen said. Without it, delivery times for some mail would be expected to be slower.
Despite an unclear future, those who worked to keep Toledo's distribution center welcomed the announcement.
"We are ecstatic," said U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who worked to keep the facility open. "This is a great victory for the workers who have made the Toledo Processing Center so efficient over the years. Our business community, our citizens, and our entire community will benefit from this decision."
The plants in Toledo and Akron were the only ones in Ohio to be removed from the initial list of possible closures, said Steve Fought, a spokesman for Ms. Kaptur.
"More than 300 jobs are not going to be lost," he said.
There were no mail-processing centers in northwest Ohio or southeast Michigan slated for consolidation by February.
The U.S. Postal Service is bleeding billions of dollars each year, projecting a loss of $14 billion in fiscal year 2012. Its financial woes have increased as volume, particularly first-class mail, has dropped sharply because of electronic messaging, to 168 billion pieces last year from a peak of 213 billion in 2006. The Postal Service said volume could fall to 118 billion by 2020.
"We simply do not have the mail volumes to justify the size and capacity of our current mail-processing network," Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement.
Still, public opposition to cost-cutting measures has been fierce. Just last week, the Postal Service backed off a plan to shut down rural post offices, opting to cut hours instead. Congress, meanwhile, has been unable to pass legislation that would aid the postal service in fixing its finances.
After both rounds of plant closures, the Postal Service anticipates it will save about $2.1 billion annually and will require 28,000 fewer workers.
Mr. Van Allen said the Postal Service anticipates most of the work-force reductions to occur through attrition. In the meantime, he said most customers wouldn't notice any changes to their service.
Contact Tony Cook at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @tony__cook.