On a mid-December afternoon, the Plattsburgh Post Office is busy as people stream in with packages and Christmas cards. John Corrier's dropping of mail for work. "I have a post office box for my business," Corrier's explained, "and family lives out of the area and business mail and stuff I probably use it once or twice a week."
Most of us use post offices like this one. But much of the behind-the-scenes work that gets those packages where they’re going happens at regional processing centers. These are the places where incoming mail is sorted for delivery to smaller communities and outgoing mail is loaded onto trucks.
Marueen Marion, a regional spokeperson for the Postal Service, says some of those centers no longer make sense as people the mail less and less. "Stuff that you put a stamp on, correspondence, bill payments, report cards—those types of actions that were once the domain of the mailbox, they’re becoming the domain of the internet. It changes not just our workload, but the revenue that comes in to the postal service," Marion said.
One way to cut costs: consolidating mail processing centers. Marion admits that even though mail volume is down nationwide, the postal service remains really important to rural communities. "In some of the locations around the country our processing facilitaties have been positioned in rural locations where broadband internet isn’t a lock, it isn’t a solid. And the day-to-day use of the mail is at a different tempo perhaps than in other settings," Marion explained.
Congressman Bill Owens is dissatisfied with the postal service’s study of the Plattsburgh facility. “This has been a financial analysis, not an analysis based on the needs of the community,” he said.
65 people currently work at the Veterans Lane mail processing center in Plattsburgh. If the center here closes, 20 jobs will be eliminated, and the other positions will be moved to Albany. That worries Rob Rabideau, who’s worked at the processing center since 1989. "I got the job at the post office, I said 'this is a good job which I can feel comfortable, secure with,' and we saved and saved and lived in Dannemora. We moved down here so I could be close to work and around my family and we got hit with this," Rabideau said.
Post office work brings good pay and good benefits. But even if his position is still available in Albany, Rabideau says he probably wouldn’t relocate. "I’d work two or 3 jobs at minimum wage to stay here if I had to because this is where everybody is—my mother, my wife’s family, my kids—we grew up here and we love it here," he explained.
He’s also disappointed that the standards of service may change – and some of the Postal Service’s small town flavor could be lost. "If a tray of mail gets mis-sorted for Owl’s Head, Owl’s Head’s not a big community; they won't get mail for at least another day or two," Rabideau said. "Our biggest worry here is this is home. This is our mail, these are our customers."
In most cases, post office officials say first class mail in the North Country will only be delayed by a single day if processing centers are closed next spring.
Back at the post office, John Corrier says he’s okay with reduced service, so long as the mail system still gets his packages where they need to go in a reasonable time. "If I need to give up that option in order to keep the post office viable then I think it’s a good thing," Corrier said.