FAYETTEVILLE -- U.S. Rep. Steve Womack objected Tuesday to both the proposal to move some mail sorting operations out of Fayetteville and to the lack of notice of such a plan being considered.
The U.S. Postal Service will host a public meeting at 3 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Fayetteville Public Library on whether to move some sorting operations from the Northwest Arkansas Processing and Distribution Center in Fayetteville to a center in Oklahoma City. The Nov. 21 announcement of the meeting gave no details about what sorting operations might move or how many employees might be affected.
The Postal Service will present the findings of a "mail processing facility review" about the proposal at the meeting. The review process began Nov. 8 with the release of a letter of intent by the Postal Service for the study.
"As I represent the congressional district where the NWA P&DC is located, I am concerned that USPS did not directly notify my office by providing my staff with the notice of intent dated Nov. 8, 2023, nor the notice of public input meeting dated Nov. 21, 2023," Womack said in a letter Tuesday. The congressman addressed the letter to Diane Ingland, Arkansas-Oklahoma district manager for the Postal Service.
"I am quite disappointed to learn that the initial results of the facility review indicate a business case 'supports transferring some mail processing operations to the Oklahoma City P&DC,'" the letter continues, quoting the Nov. 21 announcement. "I have several questions at this time that require a prompt response from USPS:
"Please explain how a reduction in mail processing services in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and transferring some of those operations to Oklahoma City will enhance mail operations in Northwest Arkansas.
"How is it possible that mail delivery impacts and delivery delays will not occur in the Northwest Arkansas area if some processing operations are to be relocated 221 miles away?"
The letter goes on to ask specifics about what operations might be moved and notes how the Fayetteville center expanded in 2012. The Northwest Arkansas region has more than 500,000 residents and continues to grow rapidly, the letter notes.
"It just doesn't make sense that it would involve reducing processing capabilities in one of the faster-growing areas of our country," Womack's letter says. The congressman, a Republican, will send staff members to the Dec. 6 meeting, the letter says.
Asked for comment, a spokesman for the Postal Service said the service would reply soon directly to the congressman.
State Sen. Clint Penzo, R-Springdale, is running against Womack in the March 5 Republican primary. Requests for comment from Penzo by phone, text and email were not returned. The winner of the primary will face Democrat Caitlin Draper of Fayetteville.
"I am dismayed to hear of the decision to potentially move some operations from the area, putting the jobs of Northwest Arkansans on the line," Draper said in a statement. "When I represent this region in Congress, you will be sure that I will work relentlessly to keep jobs right here in our backyard unlike our current representative Steve Womack, who has previously voted to pull resources away from our postal service."
The Postal Service's Nov. 21 announcement says the details of the proposed move will appear on the service's website at least one week before the Dec. 6 meeting. The details were not posted as of Tuesday afternoon. The public may also submit written comments on the proposal through Dec. 21, the announcement said.
On the web
U.S. Rep. Steve Womacks letter to the Arkansas-Oklahoma district manager for the U.S. Postal Service: nwaonline.com/1129womackletter/
Postal service website for public comment on the proposal: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/mpfr-northwest-arkansas