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Bulk rate change ruffles businesses

2010-05-30 21:31:44

LIMA — After job losses, bulk mail service and rates were the issues the business community cared about most when worried about a mail processing center closure.

Now that the closing of the U.S. Postal Service’s Lima Mail Processing and Distribution Center is official, those fears are realized.

Large bulk mail customers who previously dropped mail at the processing center to receive a 3.3 cent per-piece discount will have to drive that mail, effective July 1, to Toledo to receive the discount.

That discount amounted to a $60,000 annual savings for Longemeier Printing customers, company owner Michael Frueh said.

Many companies will choose to no longer use bulk mailing, or they may contract with a Toledo company that could more easily get the mail to the processing center for the discount.

“You have to weigh that discount against driving it to Toledo, so that discount pretty much goes away,” Frueh said. “If you want to kill direct mail, this is a good way to do it. I don’t understand why you take one of the most efficient centers in the country and close it. Somewhere down the line, someone will say, we need a bulk mailing center, somewhere near Lima.”

The High Street post office will still accept bulk mail, but it won’t provide the discount.

By year’s end, the processing facility will be closed, and its 86 jobs will leave the community. The moves save the Postal Service $2.2 million a year. The Postal Service built the facility in the 1990s but now says it no longer needs it because volumes are down.

The Postal Service needs 41 people from the Lima plant to work in Toledo, said U.S. Postal Service Cincinnati district spokesman David Walton said. Also, 17 of the 86 are eligible to retire. Other employees are offered employment with the Postal Service in a 500-mile radius.

Contractors who move mail from smaller post offices in the region to Lima will most likely keep their work, Walton said, and may have more opportunities. The Postal Service will establish smaller hubs in the 458 zip code region to which those drivers will take the mail, and drivers will be needed to move the mail from those hubs to Toledo.

A regional task force trying to keep the processing center open is out of options, said Jeff Sprague, task force chair and vice president of the Allen Economic Development Group.

“We’ve run into a brick wall,” Sprague said.

The task force pinned its hopes on an audit of the Cincinnati district’s data by the Postal Service Office of Inspector General.

In a conference call with federal legislators Wednesday, the OIG said its review backed up the savings the Cincinnati district claimed.

Details of the preliminary audit were not yet available. The final audit is expected in June.

Frueh is also a task force member. Like many in the community, he remains skeptical of the savings because of the little detail provided by the Postal Service.

“We’ll get the report after we get the decision, which to me makes no sense,” Frueh said. “Only a government could come up with that.”

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