Bend, Ore. -- Several Oregon legislators with the Oregon Congressional Delegation are fighting to keep Bend's mail processing plant from closing -- right as the Postmaster General plans to close all centers on the east side of Oregon.
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley wrote a letter to the Postmaster General on Tuesday, joined by Oregon Legislators Ron Wyden, Greg Walden and others. He says he doesn't think Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan recognizes the impact such a closure would have.
"We think that any honest review of the damage it would have done to the distribution system will leave Bend open as a key facility," Merkley told KBND. "[The Postmaster General] seemed very, very unfamiliar with the structure of the distribution systems. I made a map for her of Oregon and showed her which were the ones that would have been closed, and what you would lose when you lose Bend ... it's absolutely unacceptable."
Oregon has already lost mail processing plants in Salem, Klamath Falls and Pendleton. If the Bend location is consolidated, there will not be any locations left on the east side of the Cascades.
Congressman Peter DeFazio, who also signed the letter, says if funding is a concern, the solution should be in passing more effective legislation rather than in closing down more facilities.
"We can fix the post office," DeFazio says. "I have legislation that would make them totally self-supporting without closing more processing facilities, without closing more rural facilities."
Currently, Merkley has received a promise from the Postmaster General that she will take a second look at the decision and consider the impacts.
"If that happens then we have a good chance of keeping Bend open," Merkley says. "But I must say I'm not confident about what's going to happen; whether they'll really honor that promise."
The plan to consolidate the plant has been in the works for several months. If no changes are made, the Bend center will close this year. The closure would reroute mail to Portland for processing, potentially delaying delivery by days.
Merkley says that if the consolidation goes forward, he hopes to support a postal bill mandating that the post office keep the Bend location.
"Sometimes you wage these battles and win," Merkley says. "I am very concerned here that across the country the post office is giving up on first class mail."