Closure of Frederick Mail Processing Facility 'utter disaster,' according to director of union organization
Mike Shoop is a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier who once worked at the USPS processing and distribution facility in Frederick. (By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer)
“Dec. 28 I was casing these, and it was clearly marked on the pieces that they should have been in homes Nov. 19, 21 or 22,” he said.
According to area residents, businesses and postal workers, delays of this sort have become common in recent months, and Shoop and other postal workers say they know why.
The November closure of the Frederick, Md., Mail Processing and Distribution Facility, which resulted in mail to and from 217- ZIP codes being sent to Baltimore to be sorted, has been an “utter disaster,” overwhelming the Baltimore plant and leading to mail delays of, in some cases, more than a month, said Richard Shelley, who works at the Baltimore Processing and Distribution Facility and serves as director of organization for American Postal Workers Union 181.
Shoop, a Hagerstown resident, worked at the Frederick processing center until it closed, then found a job as a carrier in another 217- ZIP code community. He spoke to The Herald-Mail about his concerns in a phone interview on a day off.
A spokeswoman for the Postal Service’s Baltimore district acknowledged there were “some issues” during the transition, but said the Baltimore sorting facility has worked through those issues and has seen complaints decrease.
But members of Save America’s Postal Service — an organization of postal workers and concerned citizens — say the issue is far from resolved.
Today, the group is holding a press conference and protest to launch a campaign to reopen the Frederick mail-sorting facility. Later this week, the group is holding two public meetings, including one Thursday at the Williamsport Volunteer Fire Department.
The issue is important not only for those who depend on reliable mail delivery to and from the 217- area ZIP codes, but as evidence of what could happen across the country if the U.S. Postal Service is allowed to proceed with plans to close at least 223 more processing facilities, organizers say.
The proposed processing facility closures, estimated to save $2.1 billion a year, are part of a larger Postal Service plan to reduce costs by $20 billion by 2015, according to a Postal Service fact sheet.
“The Postal Service is in the midst of a financial crisis due to the combined effects of the economic recession, increased use of electronic communications, and an obligation to prefund retiree health benefits,” the fact sheet says.
The Postal Service does not receive taxpayer funding.
In response to its “new reality,” the Postal Service has proposed changes including lower service standards for first-class mail delivery times, closing and consolidating post offices and sorting facilities, and possibly even eliminating Saturday delivery.
The Brownsville and Big Pool post offices in Washington County were among the thousands of mostly rural post offices proposed for closure.
For now, many of those plans are on hold while Congress debates how best to address the issues facing the Postal Service. In December, the Postal Service agreed to impose a moratorium on closing post offices and processing facilities until May 15.
In a Feb. 14 letter to the Senate panel that oversees the Postal Service, 27 U.S. senators, including Maryland’s Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, said they had “serious concerns” about the Post Office’s proposed changes.
That letter calls for a solution in which the Postal Service would be allowed to recover more than $10 billion in overpayments it has made to its pension plans and would no longer be required to prefund 75 years worth of future retiree health benefits over a 10-year period.
Those payments have been cited by Postal Service officials and save-the-postal-service groups alike as a major source of the financial troubles driving cuts to service.