The U.S. Postal Service did not complete required studies of how closing mail-processing centers around the country — including Tucson’s — would impact service, nor did it adequately inform the public in those communities of those changes, according to an audit.
A memorandum from the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General stated that Postal Service management did not include the “details necessary to evaluate the service standard impacts for all classes of mail and the public did not have an opportunity to review the impacts and provide comments prior to the studies being approved” in most of the 95 feasibility studies that determined which facilities would be consolidated.
The mail-processing operations at the Tucson station, 1501 S. Cherrybell Stravenue, is scheduled to close and be moved to the Phoenix mail facility in April 2015 as part of a second phase of the Postal Service’s efforts to reduce costs. It is one of up to 82 facilities nationwide to face consolidation, beginning next year.
The consolidation will affect several hundred jobs and will result in a general one-day delay in the delivery time of first-class mail in Tucson.
The Cherrybell station’s retail operations will remain open after the mail-processing services are relocated.
The Postal Service will implement the consolidations as scheduled next year, said spokesman Peter Hass in an email statement. The agency will also begin the required impact analysis on the consolidation sites in early January.
Without completing and disclosing the analysis of planned service standard changes, the Postal Service may experience “degradation of service to communities, including delayed mail,” said Robert J. Batta, the U.S. deputy assistant inspector general, in the memorandum, dated Oct. 6. Batta said that could result in customer dissatisfaction, which could affect Postal Service revenue.
Completing those required studies would allow the Postal Service to better gauge the impact of the consolidations to mail service in the affected communities, and will allow for the public to be better informed of those changes, the audit said.
The inspector general’s office recommended that Postal Service managers complete the required analysis before implementing consolidations to make sure there is “no negative impact on delivery service quality.”
In response, David E. Williams, a Postal Service vice president, wrote that the decisions regarding the processing facility consolidations were made while the Postal Service was revising service standards for mail delivery and that those changes had not been finalized.
He also wrote that the Postal Service has seen no evidence that failure to complete the impact analysis and disclose the results to the affected communities resulted in “customer dissatisfaction.”
Furthermore, Williams wrote that any possible “service degradation” would come from the actual consolidation of facilities, not from the Postal Service’s “failure to analyze the change” or to disclose that information to the public.
He wrote that Postal Service managers will complete the impact studies in the affected areas beginning in January.
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said his office has been asking the Postal Service to show the criteria used for making the decisions on which facilities to close.
“We’ve not been able to get that info,” said Rothschild, who said he has seen the memo. “Now we know that the reason is apparently that they did not use a process that would allow for rational decision-making.”
Rothschild said the Tucson facility should not have been chosen to consolidate, saying that based on the geographical size of the city, the amount of mail that comes through, and the economic impact to local businesses, it does not make sense.
“Hopefully this (report) would be a step in the right direction,” said Rothschild, who also said he would be writing a letter to the congressional delegation and the postmaster general urging that “they pass legislation requiring that the process be handled appropriately.”
Peter Marcus, owner and president of Allegra Tucson, a marketing, printing and mailing service, said his business did not end up near the Cherrybell station by accident. As a business owner who utilizes mailing operations, the cutoff times to get mail into the facility are critical, he said. If his business suffers because of delayed time, then “I employ less people,” he said.
“I don’t know how you can make a decision like (consolidating) without lots of input.”