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Postal workers: Don't close facility

February 22, 2011

United States postal workers take an oath to provide mail service to the country's citizens. But area members of the American Postal Workers Union feel that oath to provide superior customer service could be comprised if the U.S. Postal Service Hickory distribution facility in Conover is closed.

The USPS announced plans Feb. 9 to conduct a study about processing operations in the Hickory facility, which moved to Conover about 20 years ago after expansion. The Area Mail Processing (AMP) study takes into account a 20 percent decline in mail volume since 2007 and could ultimately result in consolidation of the facility's operations to the USPS's Greensboro processing and distribution center, according to the postal service.

Postal workers and area leaders say consolidation of the facility isn't the way to save money or increase customer satisfaction in the postal service.

For Douglas Woodward, APWU member and employee at the Hickory processing facility, closing the facility will jeopardize the postal service's No. 1 priority: customer service.

"It's not about jobs; it's about customer service," he said. "That's the whole point of having a facility in this area. It's a quicker turnaround for customers."

Consolidation of the Hickory facility into the Greensboro facility would require mail sent from within the 286 zip code to travel from western North Carolina to Greensboro for processing. Some mail-delivery areas were partially consolidated to Greensboro last year, which caused some postal customers to experience less than satisfactory results.

"Our council does not agree further consolidation of postal facilities will maintain adequate postal service to western North Carolina," said Conover Mayor Lee Moritz Jr. "Our city has experienced a significant increase in returned mail since the previous consolidation in early 2010. A total shut down of this facility would further reduce service levels and be a disservice to our entire region."

City Manager Donald Duncan Jr. said the same amount of undeliverable mail the city received before the 2010 consolidation — about three or four pieces — has now become a daily occurrence for the city. The city's water and sewer customers, some who have had the same address for 20 years, aren't getting their mail delivered. For Duncan and Moritz, the consolidation is to blame.

"Our assumption is that's the problem," Duncan said. "That's the only thing that's changed."

Woodward stressed that undeliverable mail or returned mail could contain something more important than a letter from a friend — such as a time-sensitive Social Security check or necessary medications. A delay in the delivery of those parcels could mean unnecessary late fees or missed medication doses.

Woodward and two other members of the APWU, Norman Allen and Joshua McCroan, said they provide a personalized service that would be complicated by postal workers in Greensboro who don't know local ins and outs of mail delivery in western North Carolina.

"You're getting a personalized service by having (workers) live here," McCroan said. "... We use the mail, too, and we see it."

The workers also said a consolidation, although an attempt to save the USPS money, doesn't take into account added costs from closing the facility, like transportation costs to haul Hickory and other cities' mail to Greensboro for processing.

Moreover, Moritz is also concerned about how the 200-employee facility consolidation will affect a region already plagued with a high unemployment rate.

"Our region has 200 families affected by this decision," Moritz said. "These are productive citizens providing essential services with pride and dedication. Conover voiced our concerns to Washington. Congressman (Patrick) McHenry is aware of our position for consideration of this postal facility and the critical services provided to our citizens."

The Hickory processing center has about 200 employees, but Woodward said those people aren't the only ones affected in the center closes. He estimated that most of those workers have a spouse and a family, who will be forced to look for other employment or move from the area to find another job.

Leaders and postal workers are organizing efforts to alert elected officials about the problems caused from the facility closure, if it were to happen. They're hoping that with enough attention, the USPS will take notice during its AMP study.

"As a result of the (mail) volume loss, we have more facilities, equipment and people than we need to process a declining volume of mail," said Russ Gardner, Greensboro district manager. "We have to reduce the size of our network, because we are no longer receiving enough revenue to sustain its costs. ... One way to do that is to consolidate operations where feasible. That is why we're doing this study."

Woodward said customer service is the USPS's No. 1 priority, and if USPS officials see how dissatisfied customers are with the potential closure, then it won't happen.

"Our biggest issue is service, customer service" Woodward said. "We're called the postal service for a reason."

Comments

The truth about Postal deficits

March 6, 2011 by countryboy, 3 years 42 weeks ago
Comment: 227

Volumes are lower than they used to be, but they are returning as the economy improves. This is due to more companies investing back into advertisements. As for the Postal Service losing money. There is essentially one reason for that. The GAO or Government Accountability Office stated that the USPS who has been required by congress to prepay the pension fund, has done so, and over paid 40 billion plus dollars. The study also showed that without prepaying this fund the Postal Service would have turned a profit of over 200 million in one quarter, and would have profited almost 1 billion for the year last year. As for delaying your mail a day, try 3 to 4 days. Your mail is already being shipped from 286 to Greensboro and shipped back to 286 for processing. Now that sire is your wasteful spending. You have a facility here that was being used to process it, Greensboro thought in their infinite wisdom it would be cheaper to truck the mail 90 miles there and 90 miles back before being sorted. I love how a person who does no research on the topic, which can be found readily online. As for your cutting the waste, the part that moved last year was originally slated to save 8 million dollars, three months later that was changed to 1.5 million saved. After the move occurred it turned out it cost the USPS 2.5 million dollars, there sir is cutting government waste. Don't worry though, no tax dollars were used since the postal service is self funded, not one single tax dollar was wasted. Just some upper management gurus who failed upward deciding others should pay for their shortcomings.

Don't Mess with Newton Post Office

February 23, 2011 by ryray (not verified), 3 years 43 weeks ago
Comment: 190

I hate to hear about anyone loosing a job at this point in our economy but I sure hope nothing happens to the staff at the Newton Post Office.

All of the folks behind the counter and behind the wall seem to have their act together. Customer service is unparalleled and they are all warm and friendly.

Last year I received an email alerting me that package that was needed was not delivered and marked to be returned. I called the Newton Post Office after hours and on a weekend; the young lady found my package and instructed me on how to pick it up after hours.

I can understand budget cuts and the need for changes to stay viable but I sure hope they don't trickle down to what we have here in town. Our post office works.

Yerby Ray
Newton, NC

Times they are achanging

February 23, 2011 by Seymore Beaver (not verified), 3 years 43 weeks ago
Comment: 189

I do feel sorry for the postal workers in Hickory with this sudden and acute discovery that the postal service as a whole is not making a profit and running in the red. I know it comes as a swift and sudden surprise that management may have to take draconian measures to turn this trend around by consolidating worksites, reducing employees and making those same employees work harder for the same pay.

No one saw this coming. This was completely out of the blue.

So my mail takes a day longer to get to me. And it may mean that mail from my own zip code mailed to me, typically birthday or Christmas cards will take upwards of two additional days.

I can live with it.

Our great conservative mindset so prevalent here in Catawba County is happy with the mantra of less government, employees working hard for same pay, and less levels of bureaucracy....all things being done to the post office. The republican tide isn't going to wash away your woes.

Now if Catawba County government would only have to follow the postal lead and trim staff, get rid of wasteful programs, and consolidate back office functions.

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