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Yakima on the verge of losing area's mail processing center

Customers of the U.S. Post Office could see earlier drop off times if the area mail processing in Yakima moves to Pasco, but that's about as far as any inconveniences will go, according to a post office official.

Ernie Swanson, communication program specialist for the U.S. Post Office, said the post office has been studying the possibility of moving Yakima's area mail processing to Pasco since April. This would mean all postmarks and mail breakdowns would be done there.

If mail is going to areas such as San Francisco or Seattle, mail breakdowns would be completed at those locations. But local mail would be broken down and sorted to specific mail carriers in Pasco and then sent to places such as Grandview, Mabton, Sunnyside or any other location in Yakima County.

"It shouldn't affect anyone," Swanson said. "The only significant change would be mail dropped off with the intent of getting it out that day might be moved back an hour or so."

In Sunnyside the latest a person could drop off their mail and still receive that same day postmark is 5 p.m. If the move goes into effect, that time could be moved up to 4 p.m. or possibly earlier.

Swanson said the exception would be certified mail or any mail the clerk handles across the counter. This mail would receive a postmark from Sunnyside up until the post office closes.

The reason for the proposed move is simple. It's a numbers game.

Swanson said in the last four years the volume of mail has declined by more than 20 percent. In 2006 the U.S. Post Office was processing 213 billion pieces of mail. In 2010 that number had dwindled to 170 billion.

"Therefore we have fewer needs for processing areas," he said. "We're trying to be as efficient as possible."

Pasco has more equipment and the machinery is newer, Swanson said. This means the U.S. Post Office would see some economical savings, as well as be able to utilize their resources better.

A total of 19 post office employees work in the area mail processing center in Yakima, two supervisors and 17 clerks and mail handlers. If the move happens then some employees would stay in the Yakima office and others would either be transferred to Pasco or allowed to apply for other opportunities in the U.S. Post Office in Yakima County.

Swanson said the study shows the move would be feasible, but the post office is still going to seek out comments from the public. A public meeting to receive input will be held on Thursday, July 21, at 6 p.m., at Howard Johnson Plaza in Yakima. If the move goes forward it could happen as early as this fall.

Already the Seattle District office has completed its review and has submitted it to the Western Area office in Denver. That in turn will be forwarded to Postal Headquarters where the plan will be approved, sent back for reconsideration or denied.

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