CANTON, Ohio-The U.S. Postal Service's announcement Monday that it intends to move ahead with closing more than half of its mail processing facilities across the country means Akron and Canton's processing centers are expected to be consolidated in Cleveland as soon as March of 2012.
With more people paying bills online and instant messaging each other electronically, the postal service says it expects to lose more than $10 billion next year.
The consolidation moves are expected to help save the postal service from bankruptcy by eliminating 28,000 jobs.
It will also create a new standard that is expected to eliminate next-day delivery of first class mail and extend delivery times for mail by a day or more.
Mary Sitko, president of American Postal Workers Union 120 in Akron, says the closings in Akron and Canton are expected to impact 226 positions.
She adds, however, that a new national contract just signed in May requires the Postal Service to find new jobs for those employees.
Sitko is among the critics who believe the decision will also drive more of their customers to the Internet and away from the postal service.
She cites last year's closing of a processing facility in Lima, Ohio which was consolidated with one in Toledo.
Sitko says after the consolidation, the delivery times dropped from the standard of 1-3 days to between 8 and 10 days for people to have their mail delivered.
She is not alone in her concerns over what she sees as a degrading service standard.
Jackie George, president of Canton Data Print, Inc., pre-sorts tens of thousands of pieces of mail every day under contract with the postal service.
She agrees that the U.S. Postal Service needs to do something to save itself from bankruptcy, but worries that this move is not the right one.
"I agree they strategically needed to find ways to cost cut," says George, adding, "this was not their best decision."
A part of her business is sorting first class mail for clients who expect it to be delivered in a timely manner.
"That's why people pay the first class cost. They want that next-day delivery. They want that important piece across town as soon as possible. Forty-four cents for three to four days, or even with the increase they are talking about in January, no, that's not good service at all," said George.
George also worries that the decision to consolidate Akron and Canton's processing facilities in Cleveland could mean even greater delays because of the possibility for a crippling snowstorm closer to Lake Erie.
Some people would rather the postal service move ahead with a proposal to eliminate Saturday delivery before eliminating next-day service.
Those who still use the post office, like Bill Anderson of Canton, say they are comfortable with the way they currently correspond and pay bills, but acknowledge delaying delivery times could become a major inconvenience.
Stacey Steadman of Canton says she would probably continue to use the post office for bills and letters.
"We would probably mail it still, it would just take longer," said Steadman. "You have to mail it earlier, which would be a very big inconvenience."