Lansing Economic Officials don't like USPS Streamlining Process

Jan 24, 2012

 A group of area business figures and politicians is urging the United States Postal Service to rethink a plan that would end mail processing operations at Lansing’s Collins Road postal facility. The group says it’s perplexed by what it considers poor communication by the postal service. WKAR’s Mark Bashore takes a look.

Between 2007 and 2011, postal service data show the use of traditional first-class mail fell by about 26%---that’s about 25 billion pieces.  Attributed to the rise in online communication, the plunge led to last summer’s plan to close some 200 mail processing centers like Collins Road, along with more than three-thousand local post offices across the country. Last month, a moratorium on the closings gave two key Lansing players a chance to knock heads. 

 Tim Daman is head of the Greater Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. 

“We’re not doubting or debating the fact that they need to do some consolidations and that they probably need to do some closures,” he says. “But just the fact that decisions can be made or recommendations can be made without taking into account community input, we just find, is unacceptable.”

Daman, along with Bob Trezise—new President of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership—criticize the streamlining process.  They claim they were not informed about a November public meeting in Lansing that explained the proposal and asked for feedback.

So in a letter to U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, the duo makes a “business case” for Collins Road over Grand Rapids.  Daman fears that key factors like Lansing’s mid-state location are getting short-changed.

“From a logistics and supply chain standpoint, it just makes greater sense than it does going to either an eastern part of the state or western part of the state,” he adds.

They also allege that Grand Rapids’ facilities are leased, adding to costs, where Lansing’s is owned. 

Victor Dubina is a spokesman for the postal service’s Midwest operations.

"We notified stakeholders, the major mailers, we notified employees,” he says.

Dubina estimates around 200 people attended the November meeting and that the Greater Lansing Chamber “should have been notified.”  He says appeals like Lansing’s will be considered before a final decision is made.  Less reassuringly, he repeatedly returns to the enormity of the challenge facing the postal service.

“If there are no changes, it’s conceivable that the postal service will run out of cash before the end of this fiscal year—no money to pay employees, no money to pay suppliers, the postal service stops,” he says. “And we’re trying to prevent that.”

Backers of the local effort may not take a lot of consolation from Collins Road customers I spoke with last week.  Many said they don’t use the facility often and have other mailing options.  Also worth noting-- the location could retain mailboxes and basic services. 

Roosevelt Smith of Lansing says the larger operation helps “jump start” the local economy.  He’s worried about the possible closure.

“When you slow peoples’ transacting bills and money and letter that pertain to the economy, that slows everything down,” he says. “And it’s going to be a really bad decision if they decide to close this facility down.”

The postal service expects to announce its final plan and begin thousands of closings and consolidations in May. In the meantime, the Lansing lobby hopes its letter will trigger a more comprehensive discussion with the feds.