MISSOULA, Mont. -

Did the Post Office underestimate how many people would lose their jobs by consolidating the Butte Processing Center with Great Falls? A new report, obtained by NBC Montana, suggests that may be the case.

Postal reps say it's not so. But some in the Butte community are not giving the benefit of the doubt.

When the postal service looked at closing the Butte Processing Facility, they held a public meeting with residents. At that time, postal reps said the closure would mean eight jobs lost. But an internal feasibility study completed by the post office four months ago, cited a loss of 21 jobs in Butte.

"We just can't get the concrete answers," said Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Paul Babb.

But postal service representative Pete Nowacki said, "It was an estimate at that time. These are not final numbers and we don't have final numbers."

The study goes on to say about 18 jobs would be added in Great Falls. With the 21 lost in Butte, it's a net loss of only three jobs overall.

Figures from the report show folding the Butte facility into Great Falls would save $288,000 annually. But that wouldn't happen right away. The study said the move will cost the postal service almost $70,000 the first year.

"If there are cost savings then we want to see it," said Babb, "because we don't believe what they're saying."

Transportation costs between Butte and Great Falls could be pricey. Butte said it's more strategically located. But the post office said Great Falls is more air friendly.

"That is where our airlift is out of," said Nowacki. "That is essential for us in order to be able to make delivery standards on mail that goes across the country."

Butte has fought hard to keep its processing facility. "I think there's a combination of a lot of feelings," said Babb. "Number one that the post office is misleading the public, and number two, that they're not listening to the public."

The post office said it needs to save money because the decline in mail users has created excess capacity in many facilities.