Post office 'disaster' prompts pause in Sandston hub overhaul

Posted at 5:46 PM, May 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-15 17:46:50-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The process of changing Richmond's USPS facility in Sandston into a Regional Processing and Distribution Center, called a "disaster" by Virginia lawmakers and United States Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, is now prompting USPS's top official to put a pause on similar transitions across the country.

A letter sent May 8, drawing bipartisan support from 26 U.S. Senators, called on DeJoy to "pause planned changes to the U.S. Postal Service's processing and delivery network under the 'Delivering for America' plan, until you [DeJoy] request and receive a comprehensive Advisory Opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission to fully study the potential impacts of these changes."

The letter cites issues found at Central Virginia's Regional Processing and Distribution Center, detailed in a report by the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General called "Effectiveness of the New Regional Processing and Distribution Center in Richmond, VA."

The letter reads: "USPS has begun to implement this change without notifying the public, causing critical delays for mail that requires overnight delivery."

DeJoy responded in his own letter a day later, promising a pause until after January 2025. In the letter, he defended consolidation efforts to cut costs.

"We do not see these planned actions as at all consequential to service; rather they are important elements of achieving a network that can provide greater service reliability in a cost-effective manner," DeJoy wrote. "The career workforce will not see layoffs, new equipment will be installed, the facilities will not close, deferred maintenance will be performed, and working conditions will be substantially improved."

"I acknowledge that we have not been able to convince Congress of this, even though these efforts will have both improved the facilities and facilitate the significant cost reductions that we absolutely must achieve to have any hope of financial sustainability," DeJoy continued.

In a press call Wednesday, Senator Tim Kaine said DeJoy was "apologetic" about the roll-out at the Richmond facility.

"This instead seems like it was a plan that, while well-meaning and potentially might have some merits in theory, it was not really worked on with management in a way to bring people into it," Kaine said. "Don't roll out and continue down a path where the opening move has been such a failure. So let's make Richmond stellar, and with that example, we can determine what's the right path for the rest of the nation."

Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan, one of the several Virginia representatives who met with DeJoy to discuss what the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General found in its audit of the facility, said her office continues to get complaints from constituents, but recently, the rate of complaints has slowed.

"They have implemented or are in the process of implementing most of the recommendations from the report," McClellan said. "The one that we encouraged them to implement that so far, they are not planning to, is to be more communicative and transparent with their customers."

DeJoy told lawmakers that after January 2025, consolidation efforts would not happen without talking to Congress first and that the implementation process would be much slower than before.

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