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Post office relocation saves S.E. Redmond facility from closure

The relocation of retail operation services from the closing post office in downtown Redmond has taken the Southeast Redmond post office off a national list of post offices that could potentially close next year.

Ernie Swanson, a spokesperson for U.S. Postal Service's (USPS) Seattle district, said a couple other itmes have factored into this decision.

First, he said the location at 7241 185th Ave. N.E. in Redmond will now be the only post office in town now that retail operation services will be moved there and begin at their new location on Monday.

Second, the Southeast Redmond location is a delivery distribution center where Eastside-bound mail coming in from Seattle is sorted before it is distributed throughout northeast King County. Swanson said if the Southeast Redmond location were to close, this mail would be sorted in Seattle. It made sense to keep operations on the Eastside since they would be serving cities east of Lake Washington, he said.

While it is good news that the Southeast Redmond location will not be closing, David Yao, vice president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) for the greater Seattle area, said he thinks the USPS should still find a downtown Redmond retail location.

"It makes all the sense in the world," he said about having a post office downtown.

NO MORE CLOSURES

The Southeast Redmond postal station is not the only location that has been taken off the chopping block. Swanson said the USPS initially had a list of about 3,700 post offices nationwide that could potentially close in February 2013, but this changed in May.

He said instead of closing locations, the USPS submitted a proposal to the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission that would reduce hours of operations at select post office locations from eight hours to two, four or six hours. He said in Washington, this change would only affect post offices in more rural areas on the eastern half of the state.

"None of this applies to any offices on the Eastside," Swanson said.

The proposal was submitted in May and the commission has 90 days — till the end of August — to come up with a recommendation.

"If we decide to pursue this, we will probably begin the process sometime in September," he said about the changing hours.

Yao is wary of the proposal because even though the postal service is proposing no closures, people can change their minds and he said the USPS has changed their minds the past.

A $5.5 BILLION BILL

The potential post office closures and hours changes was prompted by the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which requires the USPS to pay the federal government an annual fee of $5.5 billion to "pre-fund" future retiree benefits through the year 2081.

Swanson said he does not know of any other government agency or private business that has been required to do this, at least at this level. He said 2006 was the last time the USPS had seen an increase in mail volume. They went from 214 billion pieces — letters, parcels and more — to 167 billion pieces in 2011.

With revenue already on the decline, Swanson said the annual payment hit the USPS very hard.

"It had a very significant impact on our bottom line," Swanson said.

He said the USPS defaulted on its payment on Sept. 30, 2011 and has until Aug. 1 to make the payment, but they don't anticipate they will be able to make the payment or the upcoming 2012 payment due on Sept. 30.

HELP FROM THE GOVERNMENT

Swanson said it would be possible for the postal service to make their payments if they received assistance from Congress.

Yao agreed, saying the USPS definitely needs retooling to keep up with the times, but they need money to do so.

"The business has changed but there's still a basic need for the postal service," he said.

Yao said the 2006 act was a way for the federal government to pad the country's budget and make the deficit look smaller. He added that there are also lawmakers who would like to see the privatization of the USPS and these "obstructionists" are preventing any work from being done.

On Thursday afternoon from noon to 2 p.m., postal workers at the downtown Redmond post office at 16135 N.E. 85th St. will be serving cake to celebrate the USPS's 237th birthday. In addition to cake and collectible stamps for kids, Yao said they will also be handing out flyers encouraging people to contact their congressmen and congresswomen and ask them to return the postal service's money.

"So far, Congress has been dragging their feet in this," Yao said, pointing out that the Second Continental Congress established the USPS and now the current Congress is killing it with its inaction.

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