HAMPDEN (AP) – Some mail that was being handled at the U.S. Postal Service’s processing facility in Hampden is now being sorted in Scarborough two hours to the south.

Postal officials say the change is part of an effort to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

“We will continue to review opportunities to consolidate duplicate operations at Eastern Maine with operations at the Southern Maine plant,” Tom Rizzo, a USPS spokesman for Maine, told the Bangor Daily News.

But others say the change is delaying some mail delivery and could result in worker layoffs.

Richard B. Reed Jr., president of the Bangor Area Local 536 of the American Postal Workers Union, wrote a letter to a number of postal customers indicating that the switch will adversely affect mail delivery.

“The mail is shipped by truck between (the two facilities) and the extra travel time would add an automatic one day to the delivery process in the best-case scenario,” Reed wrote. “The employees here at EMP&DF do not feel that is in the best interest of the customer.”

Standard-class flat mail for ZIP codes that begin with 044, 045, 047 and 049 had been handled at the Eastern Maine Processing and Distribution Center in Hampden for at least 10 years. The mail is now being sent to the Southern Maine Processing and Distribution Center in Scarborough, according to the Postal Service.

In a letter to U.S. Postmaster General John Potter, Sen. Susan Collins said the changes could mean delays throughout central, eastern, and northern Maine.

“Although the USPS maintains that these changes will result in little or no delay, local business owners who have firsthand experience with similar modifications believe delays could reach 3 to 5 days,” she said. “These extensive delays would be expensive and impractical for both businesses and individual customers.”

Collins said the Bangor Chamber of Commerce experienced “significant delays” in the delivery of its monthly newsletter when the publication was processed in Scarborough rather than in Hampden. Those delays, she said, can prevent the approximately 1,100 businesses who use the newsletter from receiving time-sensitive material soon enough to act on it.

Hampden Town Manager Sue Lessard said the town first heard about the change in a letter from the union president, which she thought was strange.

“I’m not sure we would have known otherwise,” Lessard said. “We aren’t happy that they are going to move processing. I’m not sure how it makes sense to send mail down to southern Maine only to have to send it back.”

Rizzo said the Postal Service would continue to monitor business conditions and look for additional opportunities to increase efficiency of processing.

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