WASHINGTON, June 16 — The office of Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., has issued the following news release:
Senator Jon Tester says a controversial proposal to shut down mail processing centers in Butte and Helena doesn’t smell right and is asking the U.S. Postal Service to listen to Montana customers rather than ignore them.
Tester today wrote U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe about his "deep concerns" over the lack of transparency and "no assurances the plan actually saves money."
Under the proposal, if someone in Butte sends a letter across town via U.S. mail, that letter will have to be trucked 300 miles to Great Falls and back before it’s delivered in Butte.
"This adds significant fuel costs and adds precious time to what Montanans expect to be a simple cross-town delivery," Tester wrote.
Tester also said he’s concerned about the cost of new machinery to handle additional mail volume in Great Falls, the overall loss of jobs, and the timely delivery of mail in smaller communities across southwestern Montana.
"I count myself among many Montanans who are frustrated by this proposal apparently moving forward with little or no input from Montana ratepayers," Tester wrote. "I hope you will take these considerations-as well as the concerns of Montanans-into account well before making any final decisions."
Tester also included several questions for Donahoe, saying "Montanans deserve and expect to understand exactly how this move will affect them should this proposal move forward."
Tester serves on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the U.S. Postal Service.
Tester’s letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe appears below:
Dear Mr. Postmaster General:
I write to express deep concerns over the ongoing speculation that your agency plans to uproot mail processing services in Helena, Butte and other communities in Montana, and to consolidate those services at an existing facility in Great Falls.
I understand the U.S. Postal Service’s proposal is an effort to save money-an appropriate and necessary goal for any federal agency. But I count myself among many Montanans who are frustrated by this proposal apparently moving forward with little or no transparency, little or no input from Montana Postal customers, and with no assurances that it actually saves ratepayers money. Further, it appears based on public comments provided at your community meetings that your actions are fundamentally at odds with the wishes of your customers and employees.
I am specifically concerned by the fact that relocating outgoing mail processing services will require new employees and expensive new machinery at the existing Great Falls facility to handle additional mail volume. I am concerned about the total number of jobs that will be lost under this plan. And I am also very concerned by reports that the Postal Service is not considering the added cost of shipping outgoing mail to Great Falls to be processed. These factors, when combined with the expected decrease in the quality of service as a result of this move, could easily eliminate any cost-savings associated with the move and further the erosion of the Postal Service’s effectiveness.
Under this proposal, if someone in Butte sends a letter across town via U.S. mail, that letter will have to be trucked 300 miles roundtrip to Great Falls and back before it’s delivered. This adds significant fuel costs and adds precious time to what Montanans expect to be a simple cross-town delivery. Mail from outlying areas around Butte would need direct transportation to Great Falls in order to maintain service standards they currently receive. Without such a plan, it would not be possible for mail from communities like West Yellowstone to have next day service with the existing schedule.
The public expects and deserves full transparency and accountability in their government and the services it operates. That’s why I’m asking you to provide responses to my following questions:
* Exactly how much money, if any, will this consolidation save, taking into full account all costs? Please provide an accounting of your figures.
* How much additional cost will be incurred by shipping mail from southwestern Montana to the Great Falls facility?
* What is the cost of upgrading the facility in Great Falls with sufficient machinery to handle added mail volume, and how many new employees will be needed at what cost? What is the cost savings of losing employees considering many receive saved pay grade?
* How will you ensure timely delivery of local mail in affected communities should this plan move forward? To this point, the agency has denied information requests from employee unions, do you intend on providing information?
In its letter of June 8, 2011, to you, the Postal Regulatory Commission expressed concern that the Postal Service may already be engaged in an enormous, nationwide service change without adequate notification to the Commission as required by Title 39. As a result of that concern, the Commission directed you to provide information on postal operated facilities that have been noticed for closure and that are still under consideration. I share the Commission’s deep concern that the Postal Service may be in violation of the law and I therefore request that you provide this information to me as well for facilities located in Montana before making any operational changes.
I look forward to your answers and to improved communication between the Postal Service and Montanans, because Montanans deserve and expect to understand exactly how this move will affect them should this proposal move forward. I hope you will take these considerations-as well as the concerns of Montanans-into account well before making any final decisions.