USPS Considering Shuttering Processing Facility

USPS Distribution Facility
The USPS Distribution Facility on Airport Rd.

It was just a few years ago that the USPS built their processing facility on Airport Road, but they’re already looking at shutting it down, Jason Bacaj reports in today’s Daily Progress. A study of their operations will be running for the next few weeks, which will determine whether they’re going to keep it open, move all of the operations to their new facility in Richmond, or do something between those two. The results of the study are due to be announced late next month. If they were to shut down this facility, my understanding is that all mail sent within Charlottesville would have to be routed through Richmond, though I certainly hope that’s not right. Charlottesville’s original mail sorting facility is now the home to the central branch of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, which took it over in 1977; if abandoned, I wonder what the future holds for their current facility.

38 thoughts on “USPS Considering Shuttering Processing Facility”

  1. The press release can read what the postal service wants it to read. But the closing is already a done deal. Those wishing to keep their jobs will have to drive anywhere from an hour to two to get to work daily. Except those who live east of Charlottesville, their daily trip will be somewhat shorter. Those living in Afton, Waynesboro and beyond will be looking at 170 to 200 miles round trip each day.
    Very few people in this country have job security any longer. And yet we condemn those living on Subsidized rent and food stamps. Their life isn’t all that bad if you stop and think about it. :)

  2. Demopublican is right “Done Deal.”

    One example is the Flat Sequencing System, a football-field sized sorting machine for flat pieces of mail that only a few processing and distribution centers in the country have. An FSS can sort flat pieces of mail at a rate of 16,500 pieces per hour, according to the Postal Service Web site.

    “It has a tremendous capacity to process mail,” Boule said.

    It has always been the USPS’s goal to downsize the processing facilities. This is one of the reasons the USPS offered “early retirements” spring of 2008.

    The FSS was something the USPS has been working on and toward for several years and well before the economic crunch. It is supposed to sort magazines and catalogs and similar type mail (Flats) into delivery sequence for an individual mail route. Currently only letter shaped mail is sequenced like this.

    The idea behind this is that it would minimize the amount of time a mail carrier needed to spend at his/her local post office preparing the mail for delivery on his/her specific route. With the in office time cut then the carrier could (theoretically) carry more mail and cover a larger area- reducing the need to hire more letter carriers when there is growth (a new housing development for example).

    Right now it is only a “few processing centers with FSS machines” because it is in the “roll out” stage where they’re trying to work out any bugs and figure out how route consolidations will work.

    Since it isn’t large enough for an FSS machine, the only question that the USPS has ever had with regard to this facility is “what will we use it for (if anything) after FSS has been implemented?”

    When FSS is fully implemented at least a portion of your mail will be sorted in Richmond.

  3. Waldo, I forgot to add…. as usual, UVA has dibs on the building. UVA was actually quite involved as far as input concerning the design and construction of the building in the first place. The building blocks used in constructing the building are in fact refered to as “UVA brick”. It’s anticipated UVA will take posession of the building as early as 2010.

  4. …as usual, UVA has dibs on the building.

    Well at least this time it won’t be a part of a neighborhood being carved out of Cville’s tax base.

    I wonder what they’ll use it for?

  5. Probably some type of research center.

    I stand corrected from my first reply. I should have said… “the few who are lucky enough to keep their jobs will have to drive anywhere from an hour to two to get to work daily.” And based on seniority, a few will be lucky to keep jobs in this area as well. The rest are dog meat as far as the USPS is concerned.

    Furthermore, by union contract, the postal service are obligated to and will offer their employees new positions within a 500 to 600 mile radius…. if there are any openings elsewhere. The key word there is IF. But the openings elsewhere are much less than needed as the FSS program is rolled out nationwide. The FSS program is not only affecting Charlottesville.

    This is one of those times when people can only wish they were employed by the city or county, as in no layoffs. As opposed to the state and feds who are having layoffs – Region 10, VDOT, postal service, etc…

    In the end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least 100 to 125 of the 181 local affected postal employees lose their homes, cars, and everything they have worked so hard for.

  6. I remember back in ’81 when Ronny summarily fired the PATCO ATC members for going on strike. I was a young guy back then and tried to get on board with the Feds. I took all the tests and scored fairly well. But the one thing that got me was the uncorrected vision requirement. So I washed out on a medical. I was pretty bummed at the time, but now I look back on how those guys and gals have been treated through the years and I’m so glad I’ve got bad eyesight.

  7. On my last day of high school, I went to the Air Force recruiting office to sign up. I had always wanted to be a pilot. But, had to have perfect vision to get into the program. My lifelong dream had been shattered in 10 minutes. I still wonder why in 17 years not one person had told me about the perfect vision requirement. My older brother was in the Army. He should have known and shared the information with me. I’m sure my father probably knew. I guess they really never took me serious or could imagine me flying an F4 Phantom dropping bombs in Vietnam.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/62/F-4_Phantom_in_flight_Apr_1982.jpg

  8. You could wear glasses, but your “uncorrected” vision could only be so bad. I guess that was in case a plane crashed into the tower and knocked off your glasses then you could still see well enough to hit the panic button before you passed out.

  9. Demopublican said : My older brother was in the Army. He should have known and shared the information with me.

    Please don`t blame your brother. Given other than normal circumstances,no basis for him knowing AF requirements. What has it been, 61 years since the Army, and the then Army Air Corps, seperated?

  10. Dahmius, the recruiter told me I would never make it into a fighter jet without absolutely perfect vision.

    It was never a big deal, Rod. Only the best of the best end up in fighter jets. And that would not describe me very well. Do you recall all the outlandish behavior and attitude of Tom Cruise in the movie Top Gun? Multiply it by 10 and that probably would describe me well.

  11. Once the bugs are worked out in the transition from Charlottesville to Sandston, it shouldn’t affect your Netflix. Everybody keeps calling it a new “Richmond” facility in the media releases, newspapers and blogs, but it’s actually in Sandston, 82 miles from Charlottesville. Technology Blvd in Sandston, Virginia.

  12. The USPS employees that will be hit hardest by the Cville airport facility closure will be in the “Clerk Craft” and “Mail handler Crafts” (Craft is synonymous with Union). Even then the USPS Airport facility has always used a high number of “Temporary/Casual (no benefits non-union)employees. They haven’t added new “union/with benefits” employees in this area for many years.

  13. Correct, TrvlnMn. You seem to know your way around the USPS.

    How many of the 181 employees will be lucky enough to skim by without getting a termination notice, a/k/a pink slip? I do realize it’s based on a combination of seniority and veteran’s preference. And I do know those employees with 25 to 35 years of service are the only ones who might be lucky enough to avoid the axe. I have also been told the Route 29 main office won’t be able to absorb very many of the 181, if any. How many of the 181 employees will the new Sandston facility be able to absorb? How many of those are actually willing to drive so far every day? How many of the union employess will accept positions within the 500 to 600 mile range in their contract? How many openings are there in this 500 to 600 mile range? What does the actual union contract say, 500 or 600 miles? I hear conflicting reports on the mileage. So many questions, so few answers.

    Doesn’t anybody at the post office realize mail volume will go back up WHEN the depression is over. I get 20% to 30% of the junk mail I used to get. When the depression is over, users will start mailing catlogs and brochures out again.

    First, manufacturing plants. Next, VDOT. And now the postal service. The entire country is going down the drain. What’s really disturbing is the fact the government can bail out the automakers and banks. But they can’t offer any assistance to their own employees at all until the depression is over.

  14. I have also been told the Route 29 main office won’t be able to absorb very many of the 181, if any.

    The Rt 29 Main Post Office will not be able to absorb any of the laid off employees. And all the Clerks and Mail Handlers working at the main 29 branch have higher seniority than anyone at the Airport facility (which is how they landed those plum jobs). The Temp/casuals at the Airport facility will be SOL anyway since they have no safety net. They’ll just be cut loose.

    What does the actual union contract say, 500 or 600 miles? I hear conflicting reports on the mileage.

    I have no clue what the radius minimums are for “Excessed Employees”. Clerks and Mail handlers are members of the APWU (American Postal Workers Union) and you might find more of that sort of info on their websites. If any of them want to keep their jobs with the USPS they will have to take whatever they are offered. Anyone with 25 to 30 years under their belts is already eligible for retirement (and the USPS has twice already offered early retirement with no incentives to those crafts). So that’s probably what the USPS would like them to do.

    The USPS is unfairly burdened by requirements to “prefund” health benefits for future employees (people they haven’t even hired yet- and wouldn’t if they had a choice.) This requirement (part of the 2006 postal reorganization bill) cripples the USPS and took away any profit they might have had before the economy went south.

    My opinion requirements like that are part of the Republican politicians strategies to under mind financial footing and the public opinion of the USPS so it would make it easier to dismantle it and give it away to their private industry buddies who wouldn’t do the job cheaper or more effectively.

    Everyone’s looking at Canada regarding socialized health care. Well they privatized their postal system and now its positively awful.

  15. Thanks! You answered a few of my questions.
    I talked to a guy today who has a friend at the Airport Road facility. He says the guy is extremely depressed, fears losing everything he has worked for, and seems likely to do something stupid to himself. Probably more than one in his shoes.
    I think the majority of the public would like to see the USPS privatized. But the joke is on them! They will get up the next morning and wonder why a stamp went from 44 cents to 75 cents overnight. Their slogan will be “New York to California for 75 cents, can Brown do that for you?” LOL!!

  16. If Private industry starts carrying the mail you can confidently expect that first class won’t cost less than a dollar (if that).

    With regards to the folks at the airport (and I’ve never worked there, never personally known anyone who’s worked there, but have known people who see the end result of their product- so to speak). It seems to me a lot of what’s happening to them is their (or if not them then- giving them the benefit of the doubt- their management’s) own fault.

    Unfortunately can’t say more than that in the comments section of a blog.

    Best of luck to your friend. Right now s/he should be familiarizing himself with his/her current union contract.

  17. I didn’t want to scare people. But I doubt first class will cost less than a dollar too. Whether people pay the fee in a tax supported subsidy to the USPS, or in the form of a higher priced stamp to a privatized postal service, nothing in life is free.
    I didn’t get the impression the guy my friend was telling me about is a union worker. He’s only been working there for a few years. I still wonder why so many casuals went to work at the post office assuming they might eventually get a full time job with benefits. To coin an old phrase that can also apply here somewhat, why would the USPS buy the cow when they are getting the milk free?

  18. I may have the estimate of casuals wrong. It could be a lot less than I originally thought. But the rule of thumb for for the career positions ( =s with benefits and covered by the union contract- whether or not you are a member) at the plant (Clerk and Mail Handler) if you have less than 6 years on the job the USPS can lay you off. If you have more than 6 years- they have to try and find you a spot somewhere else.

    Most likely the USPS will try to place most workers not able to stay in Cville either at Sandston or Northern Virginia. Those unwilling to accept whatever they’re offered at either of those locations will basically be quitting the USPS. The only good news is that there is a large chunk of people on the rosters up there who are qualified to retire. And as I’ve said before- the USPS would like to see those people leave voluntarily.

  19. It will be interesting to see how many of the Airport Road employees will be willing to drive 80 to 85 miles to Sandston. For those living west of Albemarle County it will be as much as 100 to 125 miles one way. Carpooling is certainly an option, but it’s still 3 to 4 hours a day of driving every day to work 8 hours.

    Northern Virginia – I would rather live under a bridge in a cardboard box and eat out of a dumpster!!! :)

    I know a lot of the people affected by this closing. They certainly have my sympathy.

    In a related issue, I wonder how much of a raise is the postmaster getting this year? He’s already at $800,000. I wouldn’t want trying to maintain current staff to cut into his raises.

  20. Postmaster-G Potter’s base salary is 265,000. He got a performance bonus of 135,000. It only gets to 850,000 when you factor in retirement benefits and other perks (whatever those are- I don’t know).

    Fox news said his base salary in 2007 was 186,000.

    That he got his raise and bonus and then a few months later he initiated hiring freezes and salary freezes for other management employees, well it is ironic.

  21. Ahh, OK. Correct you are. Found this explanation on Google…. and now I wonder how the USPS feels no taxpayer money is involved in his salary??? WTF???

    ———————————

    “As the U.S. Postal Service considers cutting delivery service in the face of dwindling mail volume and rising costs, the postmaster general received a big pay raise and a performance bonus last year, all authorized by Congress.

    Postmaster General John Potter’s base salary climbed to $265,000 last year from $186,000 in 2007. He also received a performance bonus of $135,000. In all his total compensation — salary, bonuses, retirement benefits and other perks — topped $850,000, a spokesman with the U.S. Postal Service told FOXNews.com on Wednesday.

    Gerry McKiernan, a spokesman for the Postal Service, said
    no taxpayer money is involved in his compensation…”

  22. Yep that’s the article I used for my figures.

    As for the no taxpayer money… For the most part the USPS has it’s operations budget from the services it provides. It’s a self sustaining organization with the federal government as the stockholders. When they initially restructured to become a not for profit- they were given the right to receive money from congress- but never have. So for the most part their revenue is generated by cost of services. Of course it’s still so tied to Federal Government that there is plenty of room for bleed over.

    You will also hear Republicans and postal foes (or fans of privatization) say as a reason for privatizing the USPS- that it spends up to some percentage nearing 90% on employee costs. What they always fail to take into account or purposefully obscure is that since the USPS is a non-profit It only needs to be able to break even. The organization only exists to support itself and provide a service to the American public. It doesn’t need to show a profit.

    And if you think about it… the USPS is a lot like UVA after charter reform. It’s technically still a branch of government but it is allowed to operate separately from government (in UVA’s case offering the less desirable private sector benefits packages). And in UVA’s instance their employees get the raw deal because they didn’t have unions or collective bargaining agreements in place before the switch over.

  23. I understand what you are saying, and agree. But if they operate at a loss this year the difference is made up with taxpayer funds. It’s not like the employees won’t receive a paycheck this week because the post office has paid out more than they will take in.
    None of it makes sense. The government gives the automakers and banks billions and billions of dolars. But cop, firefighters, teachers, and postal employees get laid off. I would rather my tax money support the real working folks rather than the automakers and banks. This of course is a very uninformed view of the situation on my behalf. I guess there’s a bigger picture to it.

  24. The government gives the automakers and banks billions and billions of dollars. But cop, firefighters, teachers, and postal employees get laid off. I would rather my tax money support the real working folks rather than the automakers and banks.

    Amen.

  25. “I doubt that first class will cost less than a dollar.” But then who writes letters anymore?
    Like other industries, newspapers for example, the postal service failed to anticipate the impact of new technology, especially the Internet.
    Communications that once used the postal service are done electronically, especially financial transactions. Online bill payment has boomed. Not to mention the option to pay by phone. I am sure I am not the only one who very seldom writes a check and drops it in the mail.
    And don’t forget the fax machine either. Businesses needing a document are not willing to wait several days for it to be delivered by the post office.
    As I see it, the only way it can be viable is to provide a service that no else can,and do it well, Timely delivery of periodicals people subscribe to would help. And take advantage of the popularity of online shopping-offer good service and prices.
    Amazon uses the post office to take one example. Think of the volume of merchandise they send out. But a few years ago the post office lost a book I had ordered and the vendor has to give a refund. He commented in an email- “the post office is killing me”-so must not have been the first time it happened.
    And we all are familiar with the horror stories that are in the news from time to time about lost, misdelivered, or thrown away mail.

  26. Before the big financial meltdown when the subject came up I often expressed my opinion to others that I think banks, insurance companies and all the lawyers that work for them are the root of all evil in this country. Then people would look at me kind of strange like, “Hey, dont’ be so cynical.” Now those same folks are sharing my beliefs. BTW, have you noticed how you don’t see as many (if any) of those B.S. commercials from the banks and insurance companies feigning compassion for the common man, e.g. – the good hands people, or like a good neighbor? Thank goodness the American consumer has wised up (a little)!

  27. HollowBoy, the decline in people paying bills by check in the mail is a very small percentage of the problem. The postal service depends upon and needs “junk mail” to survive. Merchants have reduced the amount of “junk mail” they are sending out during this depression. Once the economy gets back on track, whenever, the junk mail will resume. The next major contributor to the problem is technology and automation. The new postal building with the FSS technology just happens to be in Sandston, Virginia. I don’t know the history of why the Sandston, Virginia location was selected, but I feel somewhat sure the city and county routinely chasing away business and industry probably had something to do with it. This of course is why we do not have a Home Depot in Charlottesville or Albemarle County. (And if you study the history of why we don’t have a Home Depot, and IMHO, you will realize an extremely wealthy and influential person is going to have to pass away before we do get a Home Depot.)

  28. Problems with the postal service started long before the present recession, although sure that has made it worse.
    The volume of first class mail has been declining long before the present economic crunch. As for junk mail volume, it may be so, though I still get my share.
    Not sure about “chasing away business and industry”-it appears to me, everytime I go up 29North, that the developers are getting everything they want. There’s soon not going to be a vacant plot of grass between the city limits and Ruckersville if things keep going the way they are.

  29. Businesses may get whatever they want, but after opening the county caves in to every complaint some disgruntled citizen files. Arby’s is a good example. People don’t want the owner placing signs in the windows advertising his specials. Charlottesville couldn’t care less what signs Arby’s puts in it’s windows. Go north a few miles, and Greene County couldn’t care less as well.
    Do you know if nTelos on Route 29 North still has a big armored truck sitting out front with the nTelos logo on it? If so, the owner of Arby’s would catch hell for something like this!

  30. Do you know if nTelos on Route 29 North still has a big armored truck sitting out front with the nTelos logo on it? If so, the owner of Arby’s would catch hell for something like this!

    Hey, don’t forget the Better living Store on 29 North. They’ve had 2 “Tractor Trailer” Trailers parked right next to the store for well over 3 months. The trailers are empty and the Sides are covered with store signage and advertising. They are de facto billboards.

    They make the Arbys guy look like small potatoes.

  31. I wonder what Mr. Slonaker did to the county? I told him a long time ago that the county would never let up since they had developed a case of the butt for him.
    I had a couple of county employees who thought they were going to abuse their “authority” and make my life miserable. I kicked their butts in a courtroom.

  32. The reason Cville is getting dumped in favor of Richmond is that the Sandston facility (just east of Richmond city borders) is close to a much larger airport, has better highway access and also has better equipment.

    I don’t know why the USPS ever built a facility here to begin with.

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