News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The phrase "snail mail" will soon take on a whole new meaning in Augusta. On Thursday, the United States Postal Service announced it will close Augusta's mail processing and distribution facility.
"We're looking to save money so that we can balance our budget," said Stephen Seewoester, a USPS spokesman.
Seewoester told News 12 the postal service has seen a 25 percent loss in first class mail. Those losses forced the USPS to study multiple post offices and processing centers nationwide. Those studies were called feasibility studies, studies that looked at the practicality of keeping facilities like Augusta's mail processing center open.
After five months of studies and public meetings, the postal service made its decision.
"We're announcing the decision today," Seewoester said Thursday.
That decision wasn't just news to consumers and employees; it was news to Congressman John Barrow.
"We were promised. We had a fixed and firm understanding with them, and agreement, that they would notify us first," he said.
Congressman Barrow found out about the closure from News 12. He said he complained to the USPS about why his promise was broken.
"Then, they sent us a letter, and the letter doesn't tell the whole story about what they're telling folks here," Barrow said. "It tells us about facilities that are closing in my current district, in Swainsboro and Savannah, but didn't mention anything about the one here in Augusta. Obviously, they think this is on the other side of the district line that maybe I wouldn't care."
The USPS hasn't said when the processing center will close. Back in December, they issued a moratorium that said no facilities will close before May. The moratorium was intended to allow Congress to come up with alternative plans to help save facilities like Augusta's mail processing center.
"The thing that concerns me more about this is while they may be telling folks who are following up on it with questions that maybe, maybe this might be postponed, that's now what they're telling employees. They're telling them it's a done deal," Barrow said.
As for Barrow, he says the closure is not a done deal.
"Of course it can be saved," he said.
If it isn't saved, 144 jobs could be at stake.
"When a plant closes it doesn't necessarily mean every employee loses their job," Seewoester said.