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All North Bay mail processing to shift from Petaluma to Oakland

Postal officials have decided to shift all North Bay mail processing from a Petaluma facility to one in Oakland, a cost-cutting move that will eliminate 228 jobs and slow the delivery of first-class mail.

The plan to move mail processing operations from the Petaluma facility on North McDowell Boulevard is part of a consolidation plan involving seven other facilities in California and 223 nationwide, almost half of the Postal Service's plants.

Postal officials said the consolidations will not occur before May 15 but are necessary if the Postal Service is to remain viable.

Meanwhile, California election officials urged the Postal Service to delay any shutdowns until after the November elections in which millions of people will vote by mail.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen said it could undermine the timely delivery of election materials in the middle of a presidential year.

"If implemented in the peak of the four-year election cycle, such major reductions in mail service could potentially disenfranchise millions of people who vote by mail," Bowen wrote in a letter to the postmaster general.

James Wigdel, a Postal Service spokesman, said Friday that postal officials will be meeting soon with state election officials.

"Nationwide we're working with all local election officials to ensure a smooth election, not only this year, but in years to come, even with the changes taking place in mail processing," he said.

But election officials weren't the only ones concerned about the changes. Postal worker union representatives say the moves are shortsighted. They argue there are other ways to address the continual deficits at the post office projected at $15 billion to $18 billion this budget year.

Raising the price of stamps and not requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund employee pensions can make the organization self-sufficient, said Valerie Schropp, president of the local American Postal Workers Union.

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