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At the General Mail Facility in La Salle, expeditor Gary Piotrowski sorts mail bound for a processing plant. Local facilities are seeing brisk business while the future of the U.S. Postal Service remains unknown.
There are just more than two weeks until Christmas and post offices are busy with the heavy flow of holiday mailings. Nearly 18 billion cards, letters and packages are expected to be sent through the U.S. Postal Service between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. In order to help people get all those holiday greetings where they need to go USPS started offering special holiday Sunday hours at some post offices, including La Salle and Ottawa. That initiative began last weekend in La Salle and things went very well. “We did more business up here than they did in Peoria yesterday,” said La Salle postmaster Kevin Christiansen on Monday, adding that roughly 140 people stopped in his post office on Sunday. Christiansen believes it’s been nearly a decade since USPS offered retail services on Sundays. While the special holiday hours, which continue through Dec. 16, may make some postal customers happy, the future of USPS is still uncertain. USPS officials announced in November the postal service ended the 2012 fiscal year with a record net loss of $15.9 billion. Seventy percent of that loss came from USPS paying prefund retiree health benefits, as USPS is legally required to do. At the time of the announcement, USPS officials were asking Congress to resolve the prefunding requirement and make legislative changes to allow USPS implement a new business plan that would include changes to delivery frequency, offering new products and services and other internal and employee changes. Congress has yet to agree on a plan to address the concerns. “There are a few options out there, we’re just hoping the ones that extend financial gratitude to the post office will be considered,” USPS spokesman Beverly Howard recently told the NewsTribune. Earlier this year, USPS had planned on closing 3,700 “low-revenue” post offices, potentially including a number of rural Illinois Valley post offices, but negative consumer feedback halted that plan. As a result USPS is now considering plans to adjust service hours and consolidate its network of 461 mail procession locations. The current plan calls for consolidating up to 140 locations by February 2013 and potentially another 80 by February 2014. No local processing locations are on the USPS potential facilities consolidation list. Despite the uncertainty regarding the USPS’s future, Christiansen said it’s business as usual in La Salle as employees prepare for the holiday rush. “It doesn’t affect us too much at this post office. Nothing is going to change for our crew,” he said. He said most accept that the big decisions will be made above them in the postal hierarchy. “It’s on everybody’s minds, what’s Congress going to do?” Christiansen said. “We just have to show up everyday.”
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