Public Voices Concerns Over Closing Topeka Postal Facility

“A radical network realignment” is what U.S. Postal Service officials on Thursday evening told a crowd in Topeka is necessary to deal with a 40 billion loss in the number of mail pieces that have been processed by the USPS since 2006.

“That’s mail that’s never coming back,” said Rick Pivovar, manager of the Central Plains District of the USPS. “The forecast is that it will continue to go down.”

Pivovar, along with other area USPS managers, held a public hearing at the downtown post office building,424 S. Kansas Ave. He explained to more than 200 people,primarily postal employees, why the Topeka processing and distribution facility’s operations need to be consolidated with Kansas City, Mo.’s processing plant.

He said the number of processing plants nationwide has decreased from 673 in 2006 to 487 this year, and an additional 252 potentially could be consolidated with other processing facilities.

“We’ve determined that we can no longer afford the capacity of the network,” Pivovar said. “We cannot afford the existing processing network.”

Pivovar said consolidating the Topeka and Kansas City operations would save $7,089,209 in processing, management, maintenance and transportation costs.

Officials at Thursday’s hearing said the Topeka processing facility, 1410 N.W. Gage Blvd., handles 1.5 million pieces of mail a day, while the Kansas City plant processes 10 million pieces a day but has the capacity to process 20 million pieces daily.

Several local elected officials, including area legislators, attended the hearing, including Topeka City Councilman John Alcala, who said he “understands efficiencies and streamlining” but that the impact to businesses and families in Topeka “will be devastating.”

“Mail service sent or outsourced to Missouri and eliminating local service in our capital city and surrounding area is not only counterproductive but lacks in good business sense,” he said. “We definitely cannot afford to lose jobs and impact businesses in this manner.”

Pivovar said under the proposed plan, mail would still be brought to the Topeka plant — necessitating the need to keep some employees and equipment there — but would be taken to the Kansas City facility and processed before being brought back to Topeka for delivery. He said overnight delivery by the USPS would be eliminated and be replaced with two to three-day delivery.

Christy Caldwell, vice president of government relations for the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, said the 1,100-member organization understands the “tremendous pressure” the USPS is under to control costs. However, she said area businesses will be hit hard under the proposal.

“Local businesses are anxious about the impact on their operations and worry about their clients,” Caldwell said. “They rely on timely mail service and conducting their operations and meeting schedules. Increasing the length of mail delivery to businesses and their customers is problematic.”

USPS officials said 132 jobs would be eliminated at the Topeka facility with 53 positions gained at the Kansas City plant, a net loss of 79 employees.

Pivovar said union contracts would dictate who gets the Kansas City jobs. He said a decision on whether to consolidate the Topeka and Kansas City operations will be made in January or February with March 1 as a potential date the changes could go into effect.

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