INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service plans to consolidate operations and move mail processing operations out of eight Indiana cities, including Gary, South Bend, Terre Haute and Lafayette, unless Congress enacts an alternative cost-cutting plan before May 15.
The changes in Indiana, announced Thursday, are expected to eliminate at least 354 jobs and save at least $39.8 million.
Chief Operating Officer Megan Brennan says the consolidation is necessary to keep the postal service viable.
Under the plan, the South Bend mail processing and distribution operations will move to Fort Wayne. Each center employs approximately 200 people.
Pam Nessen, president of American Postal Workers Union Local 286 in Fort Wayne, told the Journal Gazette that the Postal Service has indicated the change would add between 20 and 70 jobs at the South Clinton Street center and expand mail sorting there from about 12 hours a day to 20.
The Postal Service said last April it was studying shifting Fort Wayne’s mail processing operations to South Bend.
‘‘The decision to consolidate mail processing facilities recognizes the urgent need to reduce the size of the national mail processing network to eliminate costly underutilized infrastructure,’’ Brennan said.
The Postal Service is proposing to close 223 mail processing centers nationwide as a larger comprehensive plan to cut operating costs by $20 billion by 2015.
The plan calls for processing operations in Bloomington, Kokomo, Lafayette, Muncie and Columbus to be moved to Indianapolis. Mail operations at Terre Haute will be divided between Indianapolis and Evansville. South Bend operations will move to Fort Wayne. Mail operations at Gary will go to a processing center in Bedford Park, Ill.
Retail and business mail operations at the closing locations won’t be affected.
Postal Service spokeswoman Mary Dando says the closings will take effect unless Congress approves five-day mail delivery and proposed changes in retirement funding for postal workers. The Postal Service did not announce when the changes would take place.
The Postal Service had projected that the biggest savings in Indiana would occur in Gary, where the move is expected to save $13.2 million and eliminate 156 jobs. The Postal Service estimated it would save $6 million and cut 60 jobs in South Bend; $7 million and 36 jobs in Terre Haute; $4.6 million and 29 jobs in Lafayette; $3.5 million and 41 jobs in Muncie; $3 million and 21 jobs in Kokomo; and $2.5 million and 11 jobs in Bloomington.
Estimated savings for operations at Columbus and job cuts were not immediately available.