Bid to move mail-processing
Members of Delaware's congressional delegation blasted the
United States Postal Service for refusing to let them see the
survey which led to a proposal to significantly downsize the
large mail facility on Quigley Boulevard near Hares Corner.
Senator Tom Carper said he doesn't have any information upon
which to base a decision about whether the move is justified. "I
don't know [if] this is cost-effective. We just don't have the
information," he told more than 500 people -- mostly postal
employees -- at a public meeting on Jan 19.
Senator Chris Coons said that access to data gathered,
purportedly, to justify the move, is necessary "for us to make
tough decisions. ... I want to see the numbers. ... Show me the
"Make sure we have all the data to do our homework" because the
move affects "the future of our state and the future of our
economy," Representative John Carney said.
A plan recently made public calls for the merger of several
"underutilized" [sic] mail processing units around the nation
with others that are supposedly better situated and have excess
capacity. It calls for operations at the one near Hares Corner
-- the only one in Delaware -- to be relocated to the one in
Bellmawr, N.J., east of Philadelphia and about 35 miles from the
Delaware Memorial Bridge crossing.
Receiving bulk mail, distributing mail received from Bellmawr --
including mail that originated in Delaware -- to post offices
throughout the state and retail services would continue here.
Various numbers were given concerning how many postal employees
would be affected. It appears to be about 200 of the
approximately 500 who work in the Delaware facility. Some would
be offered positions at Bellmawr or in various post offices. Tom
Kelly, acting district manager for the Postal Service, said
that, since mail volume reached its peak in 2006, the service
has been able to use retirements and normal attrition to
eliminate jobs. He did not say whether he thought that would
Consolidation, combined with extending delivery time from
overnight to two-to-three days, would result in more efficiency.
Mail would be processed for 22 hours a day instead of the
present 12, eliminating machine downtime and workers frequently
"waiting around for mail to arrive," he explained.
Kelly, who spoke before the lawmakers, did not specifically
respond to their complaint, but did say that "no final decisions
have been made" regarding specific facilities here and
elsewhere. The study involved 252 of the 487 processing units
now operating. It is being reviewed by top Postal Service
officials, he said. Public comments will be accepted until Feb.
3 with decisions forthcoming, probably later in the month.
State development director Alan Levin said the Delaware
mail-processing unit is one of the best in the nation and is one
of the key assets for attracting new businesses to the state. It
had a lot to do with decisions by credit card firms to locate
here, he said. "If you take away the processing center at Hares
Corner, we will be handicapped."
Preserving existing jobs is also a priority, he and several
speakers at the meeting said. 'There is not a more committed
workforce in the Postal Service," Levin said.
While all three Delaware lawmakers acknowledged that the Postal
Service continues to lose ground to electronic media and
competing private package-delivery companies and indicated that
they would support moves to cut costs and improved productivity,
they made it clear that they staunchly oppose closing the
Delaware mail-processing unit and will fight to keep it open.
Carper has some acknowledged leverage in that regard because he
chairs the Senate subcommittee which oversees the Postal
Service. He has been actively involved in postal matters since
He suggested that instead of moving the Delaware processing
operation to New Jersey, the one in Easton, Md., be moved here
instead of to Baltimore, as is being proposed. Mail originating
in Cecil County, Md., and in Delaware and Chester Counties, Pa.,
could also be redirected to here.
He compared the Postal Service plan to the Department of
Defense's 'base realignment and closure' plan six years ago to
relocate the Delaware Air National Guard's C-130s. That proposal
was scrapped after public officials here pointed out flaws in
the criteria and reasoning on which it was based. Carper said
there well could be similar errors in the Postal Service's
reasoning. "We just don't know. ... We have to get all the
information and have time to study it."
In any event, he added, "it's not enough to just say 'no'. ...
We can't just say, 'Close other places but don't touch us'."
At that point, he turned what started out as an informational
meeting into a full-fledged anti-closure rally. As the rhetoric
built up, attenders responded with frequent applause and
Paraphrasing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's World
War Two call to "fight them on the beaches ..." Carper pledged
to "take it to the highest level" and "fight for what the hell
is the right thing to do."
Coons and Carney said they are committed to join in the fight.
Governor Jack Markell, the General Assembly and New Castle
County Council, among others, are on record as opposing the
Postal Service move.
Noting that Kelly had commented on the size of the crowd that
turned out for the meeting, Levin said he told the postal
official, "You ain't seen nothing yet."