Public hearing of possible postal change

Published 12:49 am Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Currently, mail sent from Picayune is processed at a Hattiesburg facility before it moves on to it’s destination, but the U.S. Postal Service is considering changing that location.

The change would involve sending the mail to Gulfport instead, where more mail could be processed at less expense, said Joseph Breckenridge Postal Service Corporate Communications representative.

While the change is still only under consideration, it is being discussed as one of many ways for the Post Office to cut rising costs.

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If the change does take place, customers in Hattiesburg will still have access to all of the mail services they currently have. The only change will be that mail will no longer be sorted at the Hattiesburg. Sorting will take place in Gulfport.

A study concerning the change began in December 2008 and was recently concluded. Those results will be presented to each overseeing office, all the way up to the central headquarters in Washington D.C., Breckenridge said. Comments will be collected at the public meeting at 6:30 p.m. March 12, at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Room. The Forrest County Multi-Purpose Room is located at 962 Sullivan Dr., Hattiesburg, 39401. Those comments will be added to the study for the company’s consideration in the change.

Mail volume nationwide has declined. Breckenridge said from 2006 to present post offices nationwide have lost 10 percent of their business. He said part of the reason for the decline is due to the fact that an increasing number of people are paying their bills online. The decline in mail volume coming in and out of Hattiesburg has left it running under capacity, so the consolidation of services is being considered.

The plan is to “do the same work for less money, that’s the whole idea,” Breckenridge said.

Fuel prices also are a major expense and part of the consideration for the change. Rising fuel costs usually brings forth increases in the price of stamps. Another stamp increase is scheduled for May 11, where stamps will increase by two cents to 44 cents. Breckenridge said since the United States Post Office has the largest ground fleet in the nation, as little as a one cent increase in the price of fuel could mean an $8 million increase in budget costs company wide.

If the change does occur, a delay in the mail service is not expected. Breckenridge said the distance from Picayune to Hattiesburg and Picayune to Gulfport is about the same.

The increase in the price of stamps will help to cover the cost of the expenses. Until the new price goes into effect, the Forever Stamp will be available for the current price of stamps. After the price change goes into effect, Forever Stamps will continue to be accepted without additional postage since they won’t display a denomination, according to a press release from the USPS.