POCATELLO — The U.S. Postal Service mail processing center on Flandro Drive closed in April, but mayors Brian Blad of Pocatello and Kevin England of Chubbuck have not given up to the fight to see it reopened.
Both mayors will be traveling to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 27 where they will meet with the vice president of delivery and postal operations for the U.S. Postal Service, Edward F. Phelan Jr.
“There’s a lot of people who think it’s dead, but I don’t like things dead,” Mayor Blad said Friday.
Blad said eastern Idaho is experiencing serious delays in mail service, along with other rural areas in America as the result of the closure of 81 mail processing centers across the nation. The move by the postal service was done to save approximately $750 million in annual operating expenses.
Last March, Brian Sperry, regional spokesman for the USPS, maintained that postal service delivery for first-class mail would continue to be two days with little or no disruption to mail delivery.
Mayor Blad said the reality has proven to be different, and deliveries have been delayed — sometimes seven to 14 days for first-class mail.
“It’s definitely an issue,” Blad said. “They’ve had six months to try it, and it’s not working.”
With pressure from area businesses as well as mayors Blad and England, Idaho’s congressional delegation has sent a letter to the Postmaster General Megan Brennan. It was signed by U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch as well as Congressman Mike Simpson.
“With the closure of the facility in Pocatello, postal officials promised a continuation of quality service standards and operations,” the delegation wrote in an Oct. 2 letter. “However, we have received numerous complaints regarding the timeliness of mail delivery and reduced service standards in the region.”
The Idaho delegation asked Brennan to meet with the mayors from Pocatello and Chubbuck.
Blad said complaints about slow delivery are being lodged across Idaho, and it’s unfair that rural America is being underserved as a result of mail processing center closures.
The mayor said the city has experienced delays in utility payments from residents because the bills are slow getting to them, and their mailed checks are slow coming back to the city. Some people have been accessed unnecessary late fees. He said small businesses are suffering the same delays with payment checks coming in and billings that go out.
Mayor Blad said the slow delivery could have a serious impact on mailed voter ballots this November. He said Idaho law established the last day to request a mail ballot as Oct. 28. He said under the current USPS delivery schedule, voters may not see those ballots until Nov. 5 or 6 and a completed ballot may not come into the county until Nov. 13. The election date is Nov. 3.
“It takes your opportunity to vote away,” Blad said. “It’s definitely an issue.”
When Blad and England meet with postal service officials they will ask that the Pocatello mail center be reopened and that employees who were forced to move will be given a chance to return to their jobs in Pocatello.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re not giving up,” Blad said.