(April 20, 2015) The Tucson postal processing facility’s consolidation will hurt Southern Arizona’s economy, image and people who are reliant on mail services, community members told U.S. Rep. Martha McSally.
In a meeting hosted by Tucson Vice Mayor Richard Fimbres, McSally, city leadership and state representatives met with members of the community to discuss strategies of battling the impending consolidation of Tucson’s Cherrybell postal processing facility with a Phoenix site, sending mail within Tucson to Phoenix for processing.
That facility is scheduled to be consolidated on July 11, which has been pushed back from the original date of April 18, as part of the second phase of the U.S. Postal Service’s cost-cutting measures. When that is completed, the only function left in the Cherrybell station would be retail services and post office boxes.
The first phase, which happened in February 2013, consolidated the processing of mail originating from Tucson to Phoenix facility.
However, some portions of the consolidation “may occur at another date to be determined,” according to Peter Hass, a Postal Service spokesman.
As part of the national effort to consolidate about 80 facilities, a service standard change went into effect in January, which resulted in a one- to two-day delay in first-class mail delivery, including in Tucson.
“The USPS will continue to work with our employees, our mailers and our communities to arrive at the best use of space, staffing, equipment and transportation to process the nation’s changing mail mix,” he said in an email statement.
But Tucson community leaders and business owners say the delay is longer than what the Postal Service says it is.
Among issues discussed at the meeting were how the postal delays caused by the service standard change negatively affect veterans and elderly people who rely on the Postal Service.
Veterans regularly deal with paperwork and use the Postal Service to mail important documents, said Richard Lemons of Disabled American Veterans. There already are delays in the system without the further postal delays.
The senior population is increasing in Pima County, said W. Mark Clark, president and CEO of the Pima Council on Aging. That population still relies heavily on mail services to pay its bills, and using online services for this may not be the solution, as it could expose seniors to digital fraud and theft.
Connie Sadler-Nelson, president of the American Postal Workers Union’s Tucson-area chapter, said, “You can’t get hacked using a 49-cent stamp.”
For the local economy, “it’s not the jobs we’re going to lose today,” said Clarence Boykins, president of the Tucson Black Chamber of Commerce. “It’s the ones we’re not going to get tomorrow,” saying that not having an important service, such as a mail processing center, would lessen the appeal of Tucson as a place for people to locate their business.
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said the coalition of community members wanting to save the Cherrybell processing center are hitting a “brick wall.”
“It would literally take an act of Congress,” he said.
McSally said what she wants isn’t for the Postal Service to keep a processing center open that isn’t working. In a metro area of more that a million people, it does not make sense that Tucson would be a target of consolidation, she added.
She and four other representatives of Arizona wrote a letter to U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan, asking for a moratorium on consolidations, which McSally said was met with a “bureaucratic answer.”
Area chambers of commerce and other organizations present at the meeting agreed to circulate a survey to hear from the public about any impacts people may have experienced as a result of the service changes.
Responses would be used to make a case against the Tucson consolidation, McSally said.