Fayetteville mail processing considered for consolidation

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)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The U.S. Postal Service is considering moving an unspecified amount of mail processing operations out of Fayetteville to Oklahoma City, the service announced.

The Postal Service set a public meeting for 3 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Fayetteville Public Library to release its review of the proposal.

"I don't see how this can improve customer service," Ike Mills, president of Northwest Arkansas Area Local 667 of the American Postal Workers Union, said of moving any operations to Oklahoma City. "I don't know how this can be saving them any money, adding five hours of travel time" to and from Fayetteville before sorting is done. Workers at the Fayetteville processing center have received no details on the review's findings, he said.

The existing mail network nationwide is inefficient, the Postal Service said in a reply Monday afternoon.

"Under the Delivering for America plan, the Postal Service is focused on modernizing its aging, inefficient network through targeted $40 billion in investments, and on establishing new or reimagined facilities that support redesigned processing, transportation, and delivery networks," Monday's statement said. "In this case, the U.S. Postal Service announced it will be conducting a Mail Processing Facility Review of its facility in Fayetteville. This process is expected to have minimal impact to customer service. Business mail entry, Post Office, station and branch retail services, and delivery services are expected to remain unchanged in most cases."

"The Postal Service respects the right of any union member to express their opinion," Monday's statement said.

The "Mail Processing Facility Review" of the Fayetteville facility was "initiated to evaluate moving some of the mail processing operations" from the Northwest Arkansas Processing and Distribution Center, a Postal Service announcement from Nov. 21 said. The announcement released no details, such as when such a move could happen.

The Postal Service "will share the initial results of the study and allow members of the community to provide additional oral feedback. A summary of the MPFR will be posted on usps.com at least one week prior to public input meeting."

The public may also submit written comments through Dec. 21, the announcement said, adding: "The public's input will be considered prior to a final decision."

The review summary hadn't appeared on the Postal Service's website as of Monday afternoon. The website did show the initial "notice of intent" to conduct the review came out Nov. 8.

The Postal Service's Oklahoma City processing center is 221 miles from its Fayetteville processing facility by the shortest route by distance, maps show. The distance is 231 miles by the fastest route using interstate highways.

"We're not going to be for that," Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce President Steve Clark said of moving any part of mail sorting a 3½-hour drive away.

"It's counter-intuitive. We're growing like a weed and our volume of mail is growing by leaps and bounds," Clark said Monday. Mail service in Northwest Arkansas needs to be expanding, not moved, he said.

"Mail isn't just letters anymore," Clark said. "It's a supply chain issue. We move a lot of product from Point A to Point B."

There are tools and high-tech components made in Northwest Arkansas that go by mail all over the world, he said. In addition, the region itself is centrally located and a good spot to distribute mail from, he said.

"In terms of our location we're within a six- or eight-hour drive of much of the U.S., including Dallas and Houston," he said.

Similar recent attempts at consolidating operations have a bad record so far, Mills said.

"They tried the same thing in Richmond, Va., and it was an absolute disaster," Mills said. This kind of consolidation is part of the postmaster's 10-year "Delivering for America" plan, he said, describing the plan as "the most credible threat to mail delivery in the 30 years I've worked for the Postal Service."

The Fayetteville processing center employs more than 90 clerks, about 50 mail handlers, 30 or more maintenance workers and 10 or so supervisors, Mills said.

A spokesman for the national postal workers union said Mills was the best source for an immediate reaction Monday but the national union would have a comment on the situation soon.

Third District Rep. Steve Womack's office said in an email Monday the Rogers Republican's staff is inquiring about the review and plans to send staff members to the Dec. 6 meeting.

On the web

U.S. Postal Service page for public comment on the proposed move: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/mpfr-northwest-arkansas