U.S. Postal Service: Local mail would still be delivered overnight if Bemidji mail sorting is relocated to St. Cloud

If mail sorting operations move from Bemidji to St. Cloud, local mail (and mail within the 566 zip code that is currently sorted in Bemidji), would still be delivered overnight, U.S. Postal Service representatives said Tuesday night in a public m...

Mail sorting
Bemidji Mayor Dave Larson, left, expresses concerns to Duluth Postmaster Arby Humphrey about a proposed relocation of mail sorting operations from Bemidji to St. Cloud. Humphrey led a public meeting Tuesday night to explain the U.S. Postal Service's proposal and gather public input. Pioneer Photo/Laurie Swenson

If mail sorting operations move from Bemidji to St. Cloud, local mail (and mail within the 566 zip code that is currently sorted in Bemidji), would still be delivered overnight, U.S. Postal Service representatives said Tuesday night in a public meeting that filled the Bemidji City Hall.

However, all of that mail would be sorted in St. Cloud, said Arby Humphrey, Duluth postmaster, who led the meeting, in which several other Postal Service representatives took part.

Two trucks would go out with evening mail, Humphrey said, noting that the first truck at 5:30 p.m. would contain most of the Bemidji mail, while the second truck would leave at 7:30 and contain mail from area post offices. Mail would leave St. Cloud at 2:30 a.m. and return to Bemidji about 4:30 p.m., sorted for the local carriers.

Mail to and from St. Cloud, Willmar and Minneapolis would be changed from two-day to overnight delivery, while mail from Grand Forks would be downgraded from overnight to two-day (mail to Grand Forks is already two-day).

"I'll be the first to admit, you look at it and how does it make sense?" Nowacki said about the proposal. But, he added, "95 percent of mail doesn't get touched by human hands until it's delivered. "People have no idea how complicated mail processing is."


Package service would remain in Bemidji.

The proposal would impact an estimated five positions. Larry Bock, senior manager for postal operations in the Northland district, said the staff members would be reassigned or relocated.

"We're a pretty good employer; we really are," he said. "We take care of our people. ... We are not talking about laying anyone off in Bemidji."

Initial results of an Area Mail Processing feasibility study support the case for consolidating sorting operations from the Bemidji Customer Service Mail Processing Center to the St. Cloud Processing and Distribution Facility. Public comments were taken from Tuesday's meeting and will be gathered until Sept. 7.

"The Postal Service is on the verge of insolvency," said Pete Nowacki, Northland district spokesman. ""We're losing $25 million a day. ... We're in serious trouble. ... Is Bemidji going to save us? We know it isn't going to save us. But $662,000 is a lot of money."

"I understand completely that any business is doing things differently than they did 15 or 20 years ago," Mayor Dave Larson said while noting concerns about loss of local staff and unintended consequences that may not be realized until the change is already in place. He also said, two days instead of overnight from Grand Forks could make a big difference for local businesses.

'I trust that this biopsy may not be a prelude to an autopsy in the future," Larson said.

Bemidji City Councilor Jim Thompson read a resolution passed by the council Monday night objecting to the proposal.


Beltrami County Commissioner Joe Vene asked if the changes occur, whether the Postal Service would do a review, and if so, if the changes would be reversed if it turned out there was no cost savings.

"An audit would be done by the inspector general," Humphrey said. 'Would it be reversed? We'd make it work. We'd do our best to give you the best service we can give."

Steve Krueger of Arrow Printing expressed concerns about bulk mailing.

"We do bulk mailing for people all over the United States," he said. "It's a very competitive field." A one-day difference could lose Arrow Printing work, he added.

Humphrey said standards for bulk mailing would not change, but there may be some changes in how the mail is dropped. "Bulk mail never was sorted in Bemidji," he added. "I would expect you might find some improvements."

Sam Mason, manager of marketing and communications at Beltrami Electric, said that although he has concerns about local mailing delivery time, he understands the Postal Service's dilemma.

"One thing I do understand is cost," Mason said. "I'm very sympathetic with what they're doing to try to contain costs."

The sorting machinery in Bemidji would be relocated to St. Cloud, although the cancelling machine would likely be scrapped, Humphrey said. People who wish a local postmark would be able to do so at the counter. Local service and hours would remain the same.


Jim Walinski, an electronics technician with the Bemidji post office, also representing the American Postal Workers Union, said he has looked up the results of other AMP studies and said they were a "mixed bag." He noted that Lima, Ohio, had particularly poor results.

"There were some problems in Lima," Humphrey said, adding that the problems were addressed.

"We have to change," he said. "We don't have a choice."

"Part of being a postal employee, we're never satisfied," Walinski said after the meeting. "We're always looking to improve things."

He does not, however, see moving sorting operations as necessarily being a good a solution for Bemidji and the 40 regional post offices it serves.

"I'm skeptical," he said. "In a few occasions, I haven't been satisfied with the results I've seen."

Walinski said he'd rather see the Postal Service get a new cancelling machine from a closed post office and replace Bemidji's 50-year-old machine, which would increase speed and efficiency.

"I was real pleased with the turnout," said Paul Johnson, postmaster in Mankato, said of the meeting. "I want to commend the people of Bemidji."


A similar meeting is scheduled for today in Mankato. Some Mankato operations are proposed to be moved to Minneapolis.

"I think we gave some real good information to the public, gave more insight," Bock said.

Submit written comments to:

Manager, Consumer and Industry Contact, 100 S. 1st Street, Room 115, Minneapolis MN 55401-9631.

To view current AMP studies, visit the website . A PowerPoint document from Tuesday's meeting is on the website, in addition to documents relating to the study.

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