Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The United States Postal Service on Monday announced that it will pause plans to consolidate the Missoula processing center and relocate some operations to Washington.

The decision, announced by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, came after a bipartisan group of 26 senators announced opposition to the agency's original consolidation plan, including Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines.

Tester said DeJoy made the right call in pausing the agency's decision to trim the Missoula postal center.

“Montanans know just how critical the Postal Service is to keeping our economy and quality of life strong – and the fight to keep Missoula’s outgoing mail processing operations is just beginning,” Tester said. “Montanans sent me to the Senate to defend rural America and make sure our state doesn’t get left behind, and that’s exactly why I told Postmaster DeJoy that plans to move Missoula’s outgoing mail processing out-of-state were a complete nonstarter.”

After months of consideration, the USPS followed through on plans late last month when it announced it would relocate the Missoula processing center to Spokane. But in early May, Tester introduced a bill to stop the Postal Service from following through on the decision.

The bill also sought to further prohibit the “unnecessary” consolidation of mail processing centers nationwide. While the measure hasn't been passed, a bipartisan letter led by Tester and other U.S. senators last week helped sway DeJoy's decision to pause the consolidation.

In part, the letter pressed DeJoy to wait until a comprehensive opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission is finished. The study will look at the potential impacts of consolidation and was backed by Sens. Daines, Susan Collins, John Barrasso and Cory Booker, among a dozen others.

“USPS is moving forward swiftly with plans to consolidate and alter its facilities across the country, making irrevocable changes to its processing and delivery network which links all communities,” the letter stated. “While USPS must continue adapting as an agency to remain stable and serve the public's current needs, it must proceed with caution and understand the implications of its plans in order to protect mail delivery for all communities.”

Early this month, Tester introduced the The Protecting Access to Rural Carriers for Every Location (PARCEL) Act. The bill would prohibit the consolidation of mail processing operations in most occasions, though it does offer exceptions.

Among them, a consolidation could be carried out if it doesn't result in a processing center being moved outside state boundaries, and if a geographical review is completed and considers mountain passes.

“I’m proud to have put a stop to this consolidation plan that would have left Montanans with less reliable mail service and jeopardized the delivery of everything from hard-earned paychecks to life-saving medications,” Tester said.

On Twitter, Daines said “I am glad to see @USPS respond to my concerns regarding the Missoula post office operations and will continue to fight to ensure @USPS serves MTnsn in a timely and efficient manner.”