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Decision on Rochester postal facility closing could be announced Monday

Rochester residents will watch and wait Monday to see if their pleas were heard to save the U.S. Postal Service's Rochester Processing and Distribution Facility .

It's possible the decision on closing Rochester's site could be announced Monday. The Rochester facility and sorting that mail at the St. Paul Processing and Distribution Center would save $3.6 million, according to the postal service. However, it would also affect the 89 workers here and delay first class mail delivery by one to two days.

The Rochester move is just one of a number of sites targeted for closing in unprecedented cuts by the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service that will slow first-class delivery next spring and, for the first time in 40 years, eliminate the chance for stamped letters to arrive the next day.

The estimated $3 billion in reductions, to be announced in broader detail later today, are part of a wide-ranging effort by the postal service to quickly trim costs and avert bankruptcy. They could slow everything from check payments to Netflix's DVDs-by-mail, add costs to mail-order prescription drugs, and threaten the existence of newspapers and time-sensitive magazines delivered by postal carrier to far-flung suburban and rural communities.

"It's a potentially major change, but I don't think consumers are focused on it and it won't register until the service goes away," said Jim Corridore, analyst with S&P Capital IQ, who tracks the shipping industry. "Over time, to the extent the customer service experience gets worse, it will only increase the shift away from mail to alternatives. There's almost nothing you can't do online that you can do by mail."

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The cuts would close roughly 250 of the nearly 500 mail processing centers across the country as early as next March. Because the consolidations would typically lengthen the distance mail travels from post office to processing center, the agency would also lower delivery standards for first-class mail that have been in place since 1971. Currently, first-class mail is supposed to be delivered to homes and businesses within the continental U.S. in one to three days; that will be lengthened to two to three days, meaning mailers could no longer expect next-day delivery in surrounding communities. Periodicals could take between two and nine days.

The postal service already has announced a 1-cent increase in first-class mail to 45 cents beginning Jan. 22.

The consolidation of mail processing centers is in addition to the planned closing of about 3,700 local post offices. In all, roughly 100,000 postal employees could be cut as a result of the various closures, resulting in savings of up to $6.5 billion a year.

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