LA CROSSE, Wis. -

La Crosse Post Office employees now have a clearer picture of changes coming to their workplace.

The decision was made last year that the mail processing center would be shut down.

Now they know when.

The shutdown will begin this year -- earlier than employees thought.

After three decades of delivering mail in La Crosse, local letter carriers union liaison Gary Knudtson turned in his retirement papers yesterday.

"Going to work, you've got this big cloud hanging over your head all the time because you just don't know what the future's going to be," said Knudtson.

The U.S. Postal Service is shutting down the mail processing center in La Crosse in two waves.

In the first wave, outgoing mail operations will move to Eagan, Minn., just south of St. Paul, as early as this summer.

The second wave hits in 2014, when incoming mail sorting in La Crosse will be transferred to Eagan.

One of the big reasons USPS spokesperson Pete Nowacki said the postal service is in such deep financial trouble is a 2006 law requiring it to pay billions in health benefits for future retirees.

Plus, people just aren't mailing as much as they used to.

"Mail volume has dropped more than 25 percent and what we're doing is we're moving some of our smaller processing operations in the larger facilities so we can make better use of the equipment, the transportation, and the setups that we have in place," said Nowacki.

Nowacki said no permanent, full-time employees will be laid off. But they may have to change their job title, hours or location.

In all, 32 positions in La Crosse will be affected.

John Shea is one of them.

He's an electronics technician in the processing center and the president of the American Postal Workers Union in La Crosse.

"I bounce back. You know, we'll bounce back. But I'm more concerned about the American public, how this is all going to unfold for everybody,” said Shea. “It's like buying a candy bar and paying the same price and getting half a candy bar, or a third of a candy bar. You're paying for something and getting less."

Nowacki said collection times are likely to be moved to earlier in the day. That means if your letter doesn't get shipped out to Eagan for sorting by that earlier time, your local delivery will be delayed an extra day because it has to get all the way back to La Crosse.

La Crosse is one of 55 facilities nationwide being consolidated this year. Between 2011 and 2014, a total of 230 will have been, or will be consolidated.