This might be the final full year for U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, in the U.S. House, but he appears eager to continue a fight against U.S. Postal Service plans to close numerous facilities in Arkansas.

Ross, who announced in July he would not seek re-election to the U.S. House in 2012, used a Jan. 9 legislative update to outline his efforts to force the USPS to explore cost-cutting alternatives. Conventional political wisdom is that Ross is eyeing a 2014 Arkansas gubernatorial run.

On April 28, the U.S. Postal Service announced it would close the Fort Smith mail processing operation and move the work to Fayetteville. Other USPS announcements through the year also targeted numerous rural post office facilities in Arkansas.

The USPS on Sept. 15 announced a national plan that would include the study of about 250 processing facilities for possible consolidation or closure, reducing mail processing equipment by as much as 50%, decreasing the nationwide transportation network, cutting up to 35,000 jobs, and revising service standards for first-class mail and periodicals.

In the plan announced Sept. 15, the USPS said it would essentially move all mail processing in Arkansas to Little Rock and create lengthier mail delivery times and the loss of more than 200 jobs in Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith.

The new study has also halted the transfer of mail processing from Fort Smith to Fayetteville.

Primarily because of pressure from Congress, the USPS said Dec. 13 it would delay closing or consolidation plans until May 15, 2012.

“Recently, the agency said it is losing more than $23 million a day as a result of the economic slowdown and an increase in electronic media, such as e-mail. However, I believe the Postal Service’s troubles are much more than the economy and the Internet,” Ross noted in the update. “The financial problems plaguing the U.S. Postal Service are due to failed management, inadequate planning and poor business practices – problems that closing a few post offices simply won’t fix.”

Ross added that he is “skeptical of the overall closing process, because it appears the Postal Service places little emphasis on the reaction and concerns raised by people in the affected communities.”

A solution could be the passage of HR 1351, Ross said.

The bill seeks to remove a requirement that the USPS front-load its obligations for future retiree medical benefits. Such a requirement, according to Ross, is not required of any other federal agency.

“This commonsense bill would save the Postal Service so much money that repealing this one requirement would give the agency a profit over the last four years,” Ross noted.

Michael Tilley with our content partner, The City Wire, is the author of this report. He can be reached by e-mail at mtilley@thecitywire.com.