Postmaster Gets Look At Buffalo Site On Closing List

August 15, 2012 Updated Aug 15, 2012 at 7:27 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by James Fink

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August 15, 2012 Updated Aug 15, 2012 at 7:27 AM EDT

BUFFALO< NY (WKBW) - U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe made that clear during a brief visit he made to Buffalo Tuesday morning. Donohoe was in Buffalo to address the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, which is holding its 108th national convention, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

The convention attracted more than 2,500 rural letter carriers and is expected to have a $5.8 million economic impact on the region.

But, for the carriers and local leaders, the focus was on Donohoe.

The postmaster general, before addressing the carriers, toured the William Street facility, where more than 700 people work. The center is one of 223 targeted for possible closure as the post office wrestles with what could be a projected $14 billion deficit this year.

"We're in a very interesting time," Donohoe said. "We're in a tough situation from a financial standpoint."

The post office, in the most recent quarter, reported a $5.2 billion net less.

Part of those losses are attributed to the use of email and electronic bill paying. In 2000, just 5 percent of the U.S. population base made online payments. More recently, it has ballooned to 65 percent.

While Donohoe said he was impressed with the local workforce, he declined to say if the William Street facility would remain open beyond 2013. One scenario has the processing center being merged with its counterpart in Rochester.

"It's open right now," Donohoe said.

That Donohoe toured the William Street center could be a key to any future decisions, said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

"It reinforces just how vital that center is to Buffalo and Western New York," Brown said. "I'm hoping seeing is believing."

Donohoe said the postal service's tenuous financial situation could be eased if Congress would authorize an $11 billion refund of overpayments the service made to one of its pension funds.

The postmaster general also advocated for a five-day delivery service inside the current Monday through Saturday delivery service. He also said some operating hours of certain post offices may have to be scaled back.

"We want to keep post offices open, but they may not be open for eight hours a day," Donohoe said.

A 35-year veteran of the postal service, Donohoe became postmaster general in October 2010. He oversees an organization with 574,000 employees spread among 32,000 locations and $68 billion in annual revenues.

Donohoe said he would like to see the postal service pick up more business from the delivery of packages. That, he said, could aid its financial outlook.

Still, belt tightening is needed.

"We have to look at ways to reduce our overhead," Donohoe said.

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