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NORFOLK--The U.S. Postal Service will begin to shift processing of local mail from Norfolk to the Richmond area over the summer, increasing delivery times and uprooting families from the region, a union leader said Thursday.

Last week, workers learned from agency officials that the Postal Service would begin shifting the processing of mail to Sandston in June or July. The transition will be completed by the end of 2014.

More than 450 jobs will be lost at the Norfolk Processing and Distribution Center on Church Street, with employees 'involuntarily reassigned,' according to Michelle Wright, president of the Norfolk local of the American Postal Workers Union.

The move affects 211 clerks, with Wright among them, 150 mail handlers who move mail containers, and 92 maintenance employees, Wright said.

The reassignments could remove many families from the area if they go where the jobs are, according to Wright.

'It's potentially an uprooting of families. It's potentially an economic issue where people may have to sell their homes or take their kids out of school,' said Wright.

Many USPS customers are concerned that services will be jeopardized by consolidating the centers.

'I don't think it's not so much the processing center as it is the focus on Hampton Roads as a community in the state in general and getting services and funding that we need here. Well, I'll consider UPS more often,' said Norfolk resident Jane Frazier.

Wright said a letter sent from Norfolk to Virginia Beach would take two days to deliver rather than one because it would have to travel to Richmond and back.

'I think of the Post Office, in my mind, as the agency that serves every person in the United States, it should have a responsibility to the community in which it's in to make sure that those people continue to get the service that they expect,' said Wright.

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