MANATEE COUNTY - These are troubling times for the U.S. Postal Service. Thei 2012 fiscal year ended with a record loss of almost $16 billion. To cut expenses, the service has announced it is shutting down the Manasota distribution center and moving those operations to Fort Myers.
The Postal Service says this will save them about $8.5 million. But the move is causing a lot of worry to the workers at that facility, and to postal customers on the Suncoast who fear it will soon take much longer to get a letter across town.
The 230 people who work in the distribution center have been on pins and needles for some time. They knew the post office was about to make some money saving move here, they just didn't know what.
"We've been on a roller coaster ride with the post office for at least 3 years -- now we're closing, we're not closing, we're closing, we're not closing…so it's creating a lot of anxiety for my members," says Glenn Hayes, president of the American Postal Workers Union Manasota.
Now the waiting is over. The service says it'll close this facility by February 2014 and move its operations to Ft. Myers. That will mean a longer journey for Suncoast mail. Right now a letter mailed in Sarasota heading to an address in Sarasota is trucked to Tampa, processed there, then trucked back to Sarasota to the Manasota facility for distribution. Once this center closes it'll have to travel a lot farther.
"What they're saying they're going to do is, they are going to take that same mail, take it to Tampa cancel it then truck it to Fort Myers 129 miles south of Tampa, sort for their delivery on the street, there then send it back 80 miles into the Sarasota area for delivery," says Hayes.
The post office says the workers at the Manasota distribution center won't be laid off. They'll be offered jobs elsewhere.
But Hayes says for many that still poses a big problem. "Most of them will have to re-locate, they'll be looking for jobs in…the area or plants like Tampa, possibly even Fort Myers. So they more than likely are going to be uprooting their families and leaving the community."
And Hayes says this will also degrade mail service on the Suncoast. He says once the facility closes, it'll take at least one extra day for mail you send to your neighbor or to the business down the street to reach its destination. And a post office spokeswoman tells ABC 7 that is indeed true.
Customers are not happy. "I have a marketing and PR firm, and we have a fair amount of clients who do direct mail. So I was very disappointed when I saw the post office’s decision about closing the Manasota site, because it's going add time and money for any of my clients to do any kind of mailing services," says business owner Grace Carlton.
The post office says it has reduced its workforce by 244,000 workers since 2000 without having to resort to layoffs, because they have been able to relocate their employees.