NWA EDITORIAL | When it comes to mail in Northwest Arkansas, will moving some operations out of state make delivery better?

What’s to like about USPS move?

The U.S. Postal Service's Fayetteville processing and distribution facility at 2300 S. City Lake Rd. in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/FILE PHOTO)
The U.S. Postal Service's Fayetteville processing and distribution facility at 2300 S. City Lake Rd. in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/FILE PHOTO)

The USPS is conducting an MPFR that could affect the NW P&DC.

That's the U.S. Postal Service's alphabet soup approach to telling Northwest Arkansas "We're from the government, and we're here to help." That's a way of saying a Mail Processing Facility Review of operations at the Northwest Arkansas Processing and Distribution Center in Fayetteville is under way.

A healthy dose of skepticism will be excused, just as when someone says "the check is in the mail."

Word spread in recent days that decision makers at the nation's mail service had looked at Northwest Arkansas, with its booming population and business growth, and determined a reduction in the region's mail processing operations might make sense.

It's all part of a 10-year, $40 billion "Delivering for America" modernization of the nation's aging processing and delivery network, the agency announced. The overall plan is intended to help the agency achieve break-even operating performance by 2030. Among its ideas are larger, centrally located sorting and delivery centers serving larger geographic areas.

Initial results from the evaluation in Fayetteville make a "business case" to convert the mail processing and distribution center in Fayetteville to a local processing center while transferring some unspecified mail processing operations to Oklahoma City, according to the agency. That's about 221 miles away.

Expect minimal impact to customer service, the USPS says. Again, skepticism excused.

On the one hand, this is exactly what Americans should demand from its federal agencies, even the standalone kind like the postal service. Efficiency ought not only be the province of private business.

More than 90 clerks, 50 mail handlers, 30 maintenance workers and 10 supervisors work at the Fayetteville facility (all approximations offered by a local rep of the American Postal Workers Union). The postal service estimates the current proposal would eliminate a dozen staff and one management position.

The USPS estimates savings between $2.5 million and $3.2 million annually if its local initiative is fully implemented.

We suspect most residents and business operators of Northwest Arkansas struggle to conceive how a shrinking postal service presence in the region will improve their service. It's a sentiment shared by the aforementioned union representative, Ike Mills, president of Northwest Arkansas Area Local 667. U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, who represents the region in Congress, has also told the postal service it "just doesn't make sense" to reduce processing capabilities in one of the fastest-growing areas of our country.

Maybe postal service leaders still think of Northwest Arkansas as a less-than-major urban area. It's got less than 600,000 people within Benton, Washington and Madison counties. That's smaller than the postal service itself, with its 635,000 career and noncareer employees.

Still, the region's strong growth makes a reduction in postal service operations here seem a bit out of whack.

We'll give the USPS this: It's pretty efficient in scheduling the public's opportunity to respond to this proposal quickly after it was revealed. A public meeting is set for 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Fayetteville Public Library. Written comments will be taken through Dec. 21.

Will more details be provided Wednesday? Will the agency have something to say that makes this proposal make more sense? Is there a chance this makes mail service better for Northwest Arkansas? Can it get worse?

Consider us skeptical that the folks of Northwest Arkansas will offer a stamp of approval.


Written comments to the U.S. Postal Service on proposed changes to Northwest Arkansas mail operations may be submitted at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/mpfr-northwest-arkansas.


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