BEND, Ore. (AP) -- The U.S. Postal Service is moving faster to cut expenses than it had planned and will close mail processing centers in Central and Eastern Oregon this year.
The centers in Bend and Pendleton had survived a round of closures last year but were on notice they could be closed in a round to be considered next year.
The decision to close them this year is a result of the agency's "dire financial condition," said Peter Hass, a Postal Service spokesman.
The Postal Service, which isn't supported by tax dollars, is getting hammered as people turn to the Internet for communications and financial transactions such as paying bills. Mail volume is down a quarter in the last five years, Hass said.
In Bend, where all the mail from Central Oregon is sorted, residents noted that the change likely means that even letters meant for another Bend address will go for a roundtrip to Portland on the other side of the Cascade Range.
"It takes forever to get your mail in Bend anyway, so if it takes longer that's awful," said Colin Cone.
A 2011 study found that closing the Bend center would save $2 million a year, with 40 jobs lost there. Counting those added in Portland, the estimated net reduction is 19.
In May, the Postal Service said it would close 140 processing centers across the country, but four in Oregon survived that round: Bend, Pendleton, Salem and Springfield. In a letter Tuesday to the president of the American Postal Workers Union, the Postal Service said 53 facilities around the country would close in order to "accelerate the anticipated savings."
Details of the closings, such as exact dates, have not been announced. Hass said the Postal Service plans to continue making cuts through attrition rather than layoffs.
The news drew protests from members of the Oregon congressional delegation, who said they would continue to press for legislation to keep them open.
Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley was "surprised and upset at the abrupt change that the postmaster general has made," said spokeswoman Courtney Warner Crowell.