The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Money

October 10, 2006

Postal Service must change, official says

Many believe the future of the United States Postal Service is in jeopardy.

“Because the Postal Service continues to see a steady decline in first-class mail volume, postage prices will continue to increase and mailing industry jobs will be eliminated, unless the Postal Service can take the necessary steps to reduce its operating costs,” said Robert McLean, executive director of the Mailers Council in a Sept. 8 letter to members of Congress.

McLean isn’t the only one that knows changes must be made.

Victor Dubina, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, says the Internet, higher fuel costs, 1.5 million new addresses a year, increasing employee costs, and a host of other reasons have created challenges that threaten the ability to provide high-quality, universal postal service at affordable rates.

“The business environment has changed and continues to change,” Dubina said. “Postal employees and management see it, mailing associations see it, members of Congress see it, and it scares the hell out of all of us.”

Dubina said when gasoline prices go up a single cent, it has an $8 million financial impact in increased costs to the Postal Service.

“The impact from increased gasoline costs were $1 billion in 2002,” Dubina explained. “That was during a period when we didn’t raise rates.”

In an interview with The Register-Herald, Dubina and Karen Schenick, Appalachian district manager for the Postal Service, pointed to a few local and national statistics that show the need for change.

“Overall first-class mail is down about 5-1\2 percent since 2001,” he said.

In 2001, the Postal Service handled 103.7 billion pieces of first-class mail, but by 2005 that figure had dropped to 98 billion pieces, according to Dubina.

“If that downward trend continues, and we think it will, something has to change,” he said.

In Beckley, the numbers are even worse.

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