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While mail has ceased to have a Roanoke postmark, full consolidation of the Rutherford Avenue mail processing facility with one in Greensboro, N.C., has been delayed.

After years of protests and political lobbying, this week the U.S. Postal Service plans to begin moving operations from the Rutherford Avenue mail processing center in Roanoke to Greensboro, North Carolina.

Beginning Saturday, some of the processing center equipment will be taken down and moved to an existing facility in Greensboro, and mail will cease to have a Roanoke postmark. All mail sent from Roanoke ZIP codes will go to Greensboro first.

“We are not anticipating any delays in delivery for Roanoke customers,” USPS spokesman Tad Kelley said in an email.

But Carlton Cooper, president of the local chapter of the American Postal Workers Union, believes that this move will slow down mail in the Roanoke Valley by up to 10 to 12 days for first-class mail.

“We don’t think they can do it,” he said. “We know from talking to employees in Greensboro, they are not ready to handle it.”

Cooper and union officials have lobbied hard against the consolidation, which will affect nearly 200 employees at the Roanoke processing center. Employees learned in February that 105 clerks, 25 maintenance workers and 70 mail handlers will be given the option to relocate to another job within a 50-mile radius or they will have to quit.

Cooper said he knows of only two people who are definitely going to relocate. Many, he said, are still hoping that the move to Greensboro is not going to happen. Roanoke’s three area congressmen and two senators have all supported legislation to stop the consolidation. Cooper said he and others believe it’s possible the move could be prevented at the last minute.

“We are down to the deadline now,” he said. “If we don’t get a moratorium somehow miraculously, we are as good as gone.”

The Rutherford Avenue processing center has about 400 employees, and most of them are represented by the union. The affected employees are not expected to have to relocate until July, when handling of incoming mail and other mail products will be moved to Greensboro. After that, the only mail that will be handled in Roanoke will be packages and express mail.

Kelley said in an email that “it is a phased process to ensure continuity.”

The Postal Service has consolidated 141 mail processing facilities in the past few years in an effort to save more than $800 million after years of declining mail volume and financial losses. The Roanoke facility is one of 82 mail processing centers planned for consolidation in the U.S.

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