The Beat: An open-and-shut case

Speaking up: A steady flow of speakers, including Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, far right, lined up to tell U.S. Postal Service officials that they shouldn’t close the Brevard Road mail-processing facility. photos by Bill Rhodes
Speaking up: A steady flow of speakers, including Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, far right, lined up to tell U.S. Postal Service officials that they shouldn’t close the Brevard Road mail-processing facility. photos by Bill Rhodes

Ashevilleans want the U.S. Postal Service to keep its Brevard Road mail-processing facility open. That was the message from the roughly 200 folks who attended a Nov. 21 public hearing on the cost-cutting proposal.

If approved, the closure would cut at least 22 positions and move 180 jobs out of Asheville, mostly to a mail-processing center in Greenville, S.C. All Asheville-area mail — even items simply being sent across town — would be routed through Greenville, officials told the crowd at A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium.

The change is being considered as part of a national "radical network realignment." Angela Curtis, district manager for the mid-Carolinas, said the federal agency has been gradually reducing the number of mail-processing plants nationwide from 673 (in 2006) to less than 200 by 2013. The goal, she said, is to "optimize the machines" (keep them working around the clock sorting mail).

To facilitate these changes, the Postal Service would also lower mail-delivery standards. Instead of overnight service for first-class mail, the goal would be a two- or three-day turnaround, she said. Due to the Internet and other factors, the volume of first-class mail (which is responsible for the majority of the agency’s revenue) has declined sharply, Curtis explained, and the Postal Service must tighten its belt.

Here’s what some residents had to say about the proposal, plus a response from Curtis (for more, see the full online post at http://avl.mx/prov).

Nelda Holder

“My question has to do with the area and terrain that we live in. You're going to have all the mail from this area going down the Saluda Grade and back up in winter. And I want to know why you would want to configure it that way and not keep Asheville and Western North Carolina as a complete unit and not add that risk to drivers?”

Chris Wallace

“Obviously our service in Western North Carolina is going to suffer if you close this plant. You say right here in the flier you handed out that the study is looking for ways to improve service and save money. I don't see how it will save money, because you're going to be paying Greenville employees to do the work instead of Asheville employees. … Why are you putting money as the bottom line in this decision when we're a public service?”

Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy

“The City Council supports federal House resolution 1351 to preserve and secure the current level of mail service to the citizens of Asheville and Western North Carolina … and I'm submitting it to you now.”

Linda Labelle

“I have a small business here in Asheville. … In a good year, I can do $15,000 in business with the post office. … My customers rely and count on the fact that I can do a quick turnaround. What's going to happen if you move to Greenville?”

Grove Alexander

“I've been employed by the USPS since 1981. Anybody that has the kind of time in that I do knows that this is a done deal: This is going to Greenville. This is a formality.”

Carol Orengo

“The 2006 law that passed requiring the USPS to prepay pensions for the next 75 years. It seems like that's when your downslope started. And I think if it wasn't for that, the post office would be in the black.”

Angela Curtis, USPS district manager

“[The The 2006 law requiring the Postal Service to prepay pensions for the next 25 years]  was not the total issue. … Transportation … is a huge cost. … As we continue to optimize the network, that will allow us to fill the trucks up instead of transporting at 47 percent capacity. … We have a no-layoff clause. … We reposition; we move temporary employees. …

“There are residual jobs available throughout portions of Western North Carolina. … The company has not been filling jobs when people retire…

“Almost all of you are praising the Asheville plant, and they do a phenomenal job. It was never about their work ethic or their commitment. … This is one of the many options to consider nationwide to make the post office more effective. … It's not a done deal yet.”

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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