Less than a week after Postal Service officials notified the city of Bend that the local sorting facility was on the chopping block as part of a massive wave of consolidations and closures, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced that they had won a temporary reprieve.
On Tuesday, the Oregon delegates announced that the Postal Service had agreed to a five-month moratorium on postal facility closures, including the Bend mail sorting facility and 41 rural post offices spread across the state.
"Post offices are essential hubs of life in rural communities. They keep community members connected and provide business opportunities that would not otherwise exist. They are critical for seniors and other rural residents to access their prescriptions. Closing post offices in rural areas would carve the communications heart out of these towns. I will do all I can to fight that outcome," said Jeff Merkly, D-Ore., in a press release issued Tuesday.
Merkley is the chief sponsor of a bill that would prohibit the closing of rural post offices, making it illegal to close a post office that is more than 10 miles from the next nearest postal outpost.
In the case of Bend's mail sorting facility, the agency estimates it could save about $2.1 million annually by moving those operations from Bend to Portland. That means a letter mailed from Butler Market to an address on Reed Market will have to make the journey over the pass and back to in order to travel a net distance of less than 10 miles. Such are the realities of the modern economics of mail service in the digital era.
The savings come at a price, however.
According to the Postal Service, 17 workers would be displaced if the facility were shuttered. It's not clear how many of them would be offered other jobs within the agency.