CHAMPAIGN — The U.S. Postal Service is poised to move some mail processed in Bloomington and all mail processed in Effingham to the Champaign processing and distribution facility.
The shift of that workload will likely mean a "significant" increase in the 250 employees who now work at the Champaign facility, said Roxanna Keyes, the facility's acting plant manager.
"Everyone knew all facilities had been on the line, and they were hopeful this would be the outcome for us," Keyes said. "Employees (in Champaign) are very relieved."
Keyes said most of the new positions created in Champaign will likely be filled by people who now work in Bloomington and Effingham. But some employees in those locations may choose to retire.
She said postal officials are working with labor unions to determine how the moves will take place.
The final step toward consolidation comes March 15, when a decision is due on whether the U.S. Postal Service can change its service standards.
If the postal service gets the go-ahead, the changes could take effect May 15. But in terms of the consolidation in Champaign, Keyes said, "nothing is likely to happen prior to summer."
Effingham, which has a smaller mail-processing facility, would likely be the first to close, Keyes said. Bloomington, with a facility larger than Effingham's, would not close until "after Christmas is over."
Under the plan, some of Bloomington's mail processing would move to Champaign, while the rest would move to Peoria.
Keyes noted that while Bloomington and Effingham are scheduled to lose mail processing, certain other services would remain.
Both would keep business-mail entry for large-volume customers, and both would keep retail windows and carrier operations, she said.
Work at the Champaign processing center — which has been done primarily on night shifts — will change "to more of a day and evening operation," Keyes said.
Once the change takes place, mail volume handled in Champaign is expected to almost triple, she said. The Champaign facility now processes about 5 million pieces a week.
The moves will necessitate physical changes to the processing facility on North Mattis Avenue, but not an expansion of the building, Keyes said.
Walls will be taken out, and electrical capacity added, among other things, she said.
Some work functions will shift elsewhere to make way for the new work coming to Champaign, Keyes said.
For instance, Champaign has been processing "bundle volume" — including magazines and advertising catalogs — for the Springfield area. But with Springfield's mail processing scheduled to move to St. Louis, "bundle volume" done for Springfield in Champaign will likewise move to St. Louis.
Keyes said those studying the consolidation of mail-processing centers were faced with "a terrible decision."
But she said there was no question that for the postal service to remain economically viable, "something like this had to be done."
Since 2006, the postal service has seen a 25 percent drop in the amount of first-class mail.
In other changes announced by the postal service this week, mail-processing operations in Carbondale and Centralia are scheduled to move to Evansville, Ind., and mail-processing operations in Quincy are to move to Columbia, Mo.