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Tuesday January 4, 2011
Letter carrier says mail is a mess
Heather Rutz
01/04/2011 6:58 AM

LIMA — A typical day for Michael Wright used to start about 7:30 a.m. He’d be on the road delivering mail an hour later and buzz through his Ada-area route.

Since October until his retirement Dec. 31 after 35 years as a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier and union representative, he started work an hour later, sat around for a couple of hours waiting on mail trucks from Toledo, and worked late. Sometimes he delivered mail in the dark, sometimes he’d run his route twice. Wright is the first postal employee to say on the record what mail customers in the region know: the mail is a mess.

“In Toledo, they don’t have room. It’s chaotic,” Wright said. “There’s no way to fix it. The only way to fix it is for the mail volume to be what (Cincinnati District Manager) Chu Falling Star reported it to be. We have never had mail that light. We’re not saving any money. We’re being paid to sit and wait for mail, and we’re not a unique office.”

Wright shared information he and other employees collected about time-sensitive mail from large customers such as J.C. Penney Co., Lands End, Harbor Freight Tools and others from the November general election such as a Democratic Party ad.

The Democrats paid for an ad to be in voters’ hands Oct. 29 or 30. The Ada post office received it for delivery Nov. 12, 10 days after the election. Hilliard-based Micro Electronics paid the post office to put a flier in mailboxes Nov. 13 to 16. Ada letter carriers received it from Toledo a month late, Dec. 16. Harbor Freight wanted an ad delivered between Nov. 30 and Dec. 2, but Ada didn’t receive it for delivery until Dec. 28, after Christmas.

“The sale was over on the fifth of December, so it’s worthless, but the (Postal Service) got its money. What other company would be able to do that? These are not isolated incidents, and they’re large mailings,” Wright said.

Mailers don’t receive guarantees, said David Walton, spokesman for the Cincinnati District of the U.S. Postal Service.

“We work with mailers and give them a window when they can drop so that they can make their desired in-home dates, but it’s not a guarantee,” Walton said.

The Cincinnati District closed the Lima mail processing and distributing facility in October, moving all mail handling for the 458 ZIP code area to Toledo. The move and miscalculations in mail volume and staffing levels led to countless delivery problems and delays, including lost mail, late charges on bills and delayed medication.

Wright said Postal Service employees are afraid for their jobs and won’t speak out about problems and delays resulting from the consolidation. He believes mail customers will see improvements in their mail service soon because of seasonal drops in volume, but ultimately problems will persist.

Asked what changes have been made in Toledo since district managers met with U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan’s staff, Walton offered no details.

“We have made numerous internal changes to help with efficiency of operations and timely delivery and dispatch,” Walton said.

Wright said Toledo employees are working as fast as they can but are dealing with overwhelming amounts of mail. Mail is organized by day of the week, not date, Wright said. The backups are so great that mail meant for delivery on a Monday, for example, could be this Monday or a Monday weeks ago, Wright said.

“There’s no way of dating it. That’s why things are so mixed up,” Wright said. “There’s no room. For them to build on would defeat the purpose.”

Walton said that situation sounded unusual and was not a trend. The Postal Service has a national policy to ensure timely delivery, Walton said, and in the event that mail gets backed up, “supervisors generally adapt a first-in, first-out approach depending on the class of mail and desired in-home delivery date requested by the mailers.”