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Berkeley leader says postal closing's impact will be minimal

January 27, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

FALLING WATERS, W.Va. - Full-time employees should be able to find other jobs in the Postal Service when the postal encoding center here closes next year, and the economic impact likely will be minute, officials said Thursday.

The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that the Falling Waters facility is one of several encoding centers across the country that will be shut down - victims of swiftly improving technology.

For the office in Spring Mills Business Park, that means 38 career employees and about 100 temporary workers will lose their jobs by June 2001.

"They've all been assured of a position," said Deborah Johnson, the facility's manager.

Johnson said those jobs, which will pay as much or more than workers' current jobs, will be at post offices throughout the Tri-State area.

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"If necessary, it could go into D.C. or Baltimore," she said.

Robert Crawford, executive director of the Berkeley County Economic Development Authority, said the economy will not be hurt at all if the Postal Service absorbs the workers.

"If that's the case, it's not really a job loss," Crawford said.

Even those who cannot or will not take other postal jobs should be fine, Crawford said.

"With the tight labor market here, (the impact) should be minimal," he said.

The Postal Service has machines that automatically read and stamp envelopes of most outgoing mail. For envelopes that cannot be read by machine, an image of the envelope is sent to the encoding center in Falling Waters, where humans read the addresses and key in the correct stamp. The Falling Waters facility receives images from five different plants in Virginia and West Virginia.

Johnson said automation has been in place for about 15 years.

"It's been progressively improving. The software has gotten so much better," she said.

So much better, in fact, that the agency can do the job with far fewer employees.

But Johnson said the workers knew the encoding center would remain open for no more than a decade when it opened five years ago.

"They've all been expecting it. They knew when we opened it that it was going to be temporary," she said.

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