The formal process to move mail processing operations from Fayetteville to Little Rock has begun, with a public hearing on the matter set for 6 p.m., Dec. 14, at the UARK Ballroom on Dickson Street in Fayetteville.
Mail processed in Fayetteville that may move to Little Rock presumably includes mail from the Fort Smith region.
U.S. Postal Service officials probably hope for a calmer meeting than the Feb. 24 public hearing in Fort Smith during which the USPS pitched its proposal to move Fort Smith area mail processing to Fayetteville. More than 200 attended the Fort Smith meeting, to include Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders who told USPS officials he did “not fully trust” the USPS report justifying the move of operations from Fort Smith to Fayetteville.
In April, the USPS announced the decision to move mail processing from Fort Smith to Fayetteville.
But that process was put on hold in September when the USPS announced a national plan to study the consolidation or closure of up to 250 mail processing facilities and eliminate about 35,000 jobs. The proposal would essentially move all mail processing in Arkansas to Little Rock. The move would result in lengthier mail delivery times and the loss of more than 200 jobs in Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith.
“With the deep decline in mail volume due to current economic conditions and continuing electronic diversion, the Postal Service has an excess of employees and equipment in some mail processing operations,” noted a statement released Tuesday (Nov. 29) from the Arkansas District of the USPS. “Initial study results support consolidating some mail processing operations that are currently being performed at the Fayetteville Processing and Distribution Facility by taking advantage of available processing capacity at the Little Rock Processing and Distribution Center in order to increase efficiency and improve productivity.”
The USPS recently reported a fiscal year 2011 net income loss of $5.1 billion, with mail volume declining by 1.7%.
According to the USPS, mail volume has declined by more than 43 billion pieces in the past 5 years, with first-class mail down 25% and single piece first-class mail — letters bearing postage stamps — down 36% in the same timeframe. The number of letters bearing postage stamps has declined by about 50% in the past 10 years.
“Since 2006, we have closed 186 facilities, removed more than 1,500 pieces of mail processing equipment, decreased employee complement by more than 110,000 through attrition and reduced costs by $12 billion,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a September statement announcing the national review.
Thomas Henry, a former Postal Service union official, said in September that the plan is essentially a “done deal” and he expects mail from Fort Smith to be processed in Little Rock by March 2012.
U.S. Reps. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, and Steve Womack, R-Rogers, have challenged the USPS plan to make deep cuts.
“The USPS not only has a funding problem; it has a management problem. And the answer is not to continue to seek relief at the expense of workers, patrons, and service. Enough already,” Womack said Sept. 16.
Michael Tilley with our content partner, The City Wire, is the author of this report. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.