Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Sen. Jon Tester on Monday urged the postmaster general to reconsider any thoughts of moving the Processing and Distribution Center from Missoula to Spokane.

Employees at the Missoula post office on Kent Avenue expressed concern last month after they learned that the facility is under review for possible relocation. The center sorts mail for delivery across western Montana.

“The Missoula (center) is a critical part of postal operations in Montana,” Tester said in a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. “If processing were to be moved out of state, mail would get sent from Missoula more than 200 miles over two mountain passes to Spokane to be sorted before any of it is sent back to be delivered.”

The Postal Service in January published a notice of intent to consolidate roughly 30 processing and distribution centers. The notice stated that it was “highly likely” that each center would be “modernized and repurposed as a Local Processing Center, a Sorting & Delivery Center, or both, consistent with the broader network redesign outlined in the Delivering For America (DFA) Plan.”

Tester said the Missoula center employs more than 100 people and has served the region for decades. He noted the challenges of crossing both Lookout and Fourth of July passes in Montana and Idaho, which could impede mail travel during winter months.

He also said the Missoula center plays an important role in supporting small businesses and delivering prescription medications in a timely manner.

“I fail to see how this transfer would result in improved postal service for Montanans,” Tester wrote. “I urge you to halt any proposal to move Missoula operations to Spokane and refocus efforts on improving delivery standards in rural America.”

The Delivering for America Plan for Missoula describes the proposed relocation as part of a 10-year strategic effort to modernize the nation's aging postal network. According to the Postal Service, the plan includes initiatives to improve the processing of mail and packages, along with delivery networks.

The service said the plan represents at $40 billion strategic investment in the U.S. Postal Service.

“This specific facility review will inform the best allocation of resources and strategies to improve customer service and to achieve significant cost savings through operational precision and efficiency,” the agency said.

Other regional changes propose relocating the Processing and Distribution Center in Casper to Billings, the center in Yakima to Seattle, and the center in Grand Junction to Denver.