Scores of postal workers and customers turned out Monday night to voice their opposition to a proposal to shift Lexington's mail-processing operations to Louisville or Knoxville.
About 300 workers would be affected if the proposal to shut down operations at the Nandino Boulevard postal processing center is implemented.
The post office has said that moving the operations out of Lexington would create more jobs in Louisville and Knoxville, but 103 positions would be eliminated entirely.
The change also would mean slower delivery. The standard is currently one day for first-class mail. Sorting the mail elsewhere would change that standard to two or three days, according to the postal service.
Steve Cronic, senior plant manager for the postal service's Kentuckiana district, said the postal service expanded rapidly between 1970 and 2006.
But now, the U.S. Postal Service says that declining mail volume and revenue in the midst of the economic downturn have made cost-cutting necessary.
"We've got to consolidate because all that capacity we have is underutilized," Cronic said at Monday's public meeting.
The postal service would save $9 million a year by moving mail-processing operations out of Lexington, he said. The postal service already has shuttered about 200 processing centers across the country.
Lexington is one of 250 processing centers nationwide, and one of seven in Kentucky, that are being studied for possible consolidation.
More than 35,000 jobs across the country could be affected, with savings of $3.5 billion.
David Walton, a spokesman for the postal service, said at the public meeting held at the Fayette County Public Schools' Central Office on Monday night that a decision on the plan should be made by February or March.
A number of people who offered opinions at the meeting said the change could have a negative impact on consumers.
James A. Lee, a mail-processing clerk, said that consumers will soon have to pay 45 cents — a penny more — for first-class stamps. And if the consolidation proposal is implemented, delivery will take longer.
"We're going to say, 'Hey, pay more to get less,'" Lee said. "It is a degradation. ... We will become less relevant, and as you become less relevant, the way to the door is a lot quicker."
Marilyn Dishman, a retired teacher and a postal customer, said she resents being asked to pay more for postage at the same time the government is considering the consolidation plan.
"I am so angry with the thought of shutting down the Nandino location, I'm thinking all of us ought to start paying our bills and communicating by Internet," she said.
Veronica Cecil, director of U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler's district office, read a letter from Chandler at the meeting stating that he strongly opposes the consolidation of mail processing in Lexington.
"I am concerned that the decision to move jobs out of Lexington is shortsighted," Chandler wrote.
He said the productivity scores for Lexington's processing center "far outweighs" those of Louisville and Knoxville.
Reach Karla Ward at (859) 231-3314 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3314.