Say goodbye to that smudgy black postmark reading “Fort Lauderdale.” Bid farewell also to speedier delivery of mail, at least outside South Florida.
In an effort to address budget woes from a severe decline in mail volume, the U.S. Postal Service is closing Broward County’s two massive mail processing centers and shifting operations to a Miami facility. They are among 140 processing centers to be shuttered nationwide.
Processing centers in Palm Beach County will remain open.
The centers to be closed are the Fort Lauderdale Processing and Distribution Center at 1900 W. Oakland Park Blvd., which has been sorting mail for 38 years, and the South Florida Processing and Distribution Center at 16000 Pines Blvd. in Pembroke Pines, which has been in business for 20 years.
“We have to make some difficult decisions sometimes and this is one of them,” said Debra Fetterly, the Postal Service’s regional spokeswoman.
The Fort Lauderdale facility will start its move in mid-June, and complete the transfer by Sept. 1, so mail can be delivered smoothly during the holiday and election seasons. The Pembroke Pines facility will begin its move early next year.
The move comes as mail volume, mostly due to the Internet, has declined from an all-time high of 213 billion pieces in 2006 to 171 billion in 2010.
“We simply do not have the mail volumes to justify the size and capacity of our current mail processing network,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahue said in announcing the closures. The service, he said, expects to lose $14 billion in fiscal year 2012.
The most noticeable consequence of the closings will be a day’s delay in mail sent outside South Florida, Fetterly said. Mail that once took two days to deliver might now take three.
But mail posted within the region, from Fort Pierce to the Keys, should still get delivered in a day. “In the local area here it should still be overnight,” she said.
But Broward County Mayor John Rodstrom said delivery delays would deter folks from using the Postal Service. “They’re putting themselves out of business by doing things like this,” he said.
Less tangible but more significant to many will be the loss of a local postmark. Since the 1890s, mail posted in Broward bore a local postmark. “Fort Lauderdale FL 333” will now be replaced with the postmark “Miami FL 331.”
“It’s a little bit of a loss of identity for people who still use mail on a regular basis,” said Chris Barfield, curator at the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society. “It gives you a sense of location, it’s where your letter started its journey.”
The 800-some workers at the two centers will keep their jobs, but be transferred to other facilities, Fetterly said. Retail outlets at both centers will keep operating.
While the big centers will close, a storefront facility on Las Olas Boulevard, much beloved by customers, was among 600 smaller facilities nationwide, and six in South Florida, that will remain open.