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The heist has grown beyond just your local Post Office, now they want to trash one of the world's finest distribution systems too..

It's the friday before Christmas 2013, the winds are rising, and the temperature is dropping. On a reservation in South Dakota a retired veteran and National Park Service Ranger checks his bank balance and sees that he can afford to send another stocking stuffer along with the cookies to his daughter serving at Ellsworth Air Force Base on the outskirts of Rapid City. So after gassing up the old pickup, he goes inside the convenience store and buys a phone card. He slips the phone card into the box with the cookies and seals it up. He drives past the abandoned small town Post Office down dirt roads that are rapidly icing up. It's only 2 p.m. and the nearest remaining post office is only 20 miles away, should be able to make it. After nearly sliding off the road a few times and slowing to a crawl when visibility dropped to near zero, he makes it to the distant Post Office at five to three, and a line of customers stretches out the door that is about to close for the weekend.

Fortunately the Postmaster/Carrier/Clerk/Mailhandler/Janitor stays open until the last customer is served, even though he won't get paid for working past the 3 pm closing time. The mail truck to Sioux Falls leaves 15 minutes late, but given the weather that truck will be hours late by the time it reaches the Sioux Falls mail sorting center over 200 miles east. After midnight the mail truck arrives at Sioux Falls, just as the State Troopers are closing I-90. The last westbound truck for the Casper, Wyoming mail processing center just left and won't get far, and with inbound mail processing done for the night and the whole Post Office shut down 'til monday morning, that mail ain't goin' nowhere for the weekend. By monday evening the roads have cleared, and the cookies and phone card catch the next truck west to Casper at midnight.   Late on tuesday the westbound truck arrives in Casper and is backed up to the loading dock at the Postal processing center- it's Christmas eve, and the mail ain't even getting sorted 'til thursday. Thursday night our now late christmas gift package makes it's way through the sorting machines and gets trucked to Ellsworth Air Force Base. But the roads are bad again and the package arrives too late for the carrier, so the Christmas package gets delivered, after 10 days, on monday... Just in time for new years!

Sound Absurd? Yes, it is. The Postal Service has spent a couple centuries building one of the best distribution networks on the planet. That network now delivers those christmas cookies and phone card the hundred odd miles from the Rez to the Air Base overnight, days before christmas eve. But the Postal Service, desperate to horde enough money to pay the huge retiree health care prepayments it's congressional masters demand, has proposed a radical plan to destroy the efficient network that took centuries to build. Despite the Postal Service's own studies that show that processing facility closings don't cut processing costs and drive transportation costs through the roof, the Postal Services persists with it's self destructive plans.

This is beyond stupid- It's insanity. For the last few years the Postal Service has proposed dozens and dozens of mail processing facility closings. Their twisted "logic" is that bigger facilities are more efficent, so they should close smaller, mostly rural facilities, and truck the mail to distant bigger cities to be sorted. But the Postal Service's own research shows that their bigger facilities are in fact less efficient than their small ones. Now a few of these moves might have made sense, like consolodating mail sorting in a couple underused facilities but a few miles apart. But the Postal Service has set reality aside in it's consolidation plans.

A few years back I researched one of the Postal Service's early consolidation proposals to move mail sorting from Sioux City to Sioux Falls. Sioux City has a great mail sorting facility, right by the airport with a main line railroad and Interstate highway running right by. It's an efficient single level facility, with plenty of room for expansion. The Sioux Falls facility the Postal Service wanted to consolidate to? An obsolete multi story facility boxed in by downtown Sioux Falls, with no room for expansion and miles to the interstate and airport and no rail access.

That was stupid... The Postal Service has now moved beyond that to downright crazy with it's proposal to close the Pierre, Aberdeen, Huron, and Sioux City mail sorting centers and truck the mail to an overtaxed Sioux Falls facility, then truck the same mail hundreds of miles further to it's destination. Western South Dakota doesn't fare any better under the Postal Service's "plan", with mail now sorted in Rapid City trucked 300 miles to Casper for sorting. That's how a letter that now travels a hundred miles along the I-90 corridor overnight would have to take an over thousand mile weeklong trip via Sioux Falls and Casper if the Postal Service has their way. For struggling daily newspapers that rely on the Postal Service for overnight delivery to readers in surrounding rural areas, the Postal Service's "plan" could lead to extinction. The Aberdeen American News makes a late night run across town to the Aberdeen postal sorting facility, and the Postal Service's carriers reliably deliver the paper through rural northeast South Dakota a few hours later. With the Aberdeen and next closest mail  sorting facility in Huron closed, the Aberdeen American News will have to print their paper four hours earlier, then truck it 200 miles to the Sioux Falls sorting facility. Meanwhile, the Gannett owned Sioux Falls daily paper merely has to haul it's papers across town four hours after the Aberdeen papers have to be on the truck...

As you're no doubt beginning to notice, the Postal Service's proposed sorting facility closings aren't going to save them a dime, never mind the price of a first class stamp. But there's a whole ecosystem of Postal Service suppliers and contractors that'll make a tidy profit on the deal. Postal Service transportation contractors already employ over 20,000 drivers, and the Postal Service already leases over 10,000 trailers from vendors like a subsiderary of GE as well as trailers that are supplied by contractors or owned by the Postal Service. And when the  Sioux Falls and other postal facilities need more space to sort all the deluge of mail suddenly sent there way, there's a whole 'nuther ecosystem of commercial- industrial property owners who'll be happy to lease them even more space. Meanwhile, the abandonned sorting centers will sit vacant for years. And you don't move mail a thousand miles instead of a hundred without putting thousands more trucks on the road and creating literally tons more greenhouse gasses.

We can stop our Postal Service's impending suicide. Please attend one of the Save America's Postal Service rallies tuesday in each congressional district, surf over to Save America's Postal Service for more info. If you can't make it, write, call, e-mail, talk to, or otherwise inform your Congress member that you won't allow the world's finest Postal Service to be trashed!

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