Lewes postal annex to merge with Rehoboth

Postal service to close Lewes annex

Operation to merge with Rehoboth site

By Henry J. Evans Jr.

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The U.S. Postal Service will close its Lewes annex and move the operation to its Rehoboth Beach annex. The closure and consolidation, set for Saturday, Aug. 11, are aimed at reducing operating costs, a postal official said.

“These changes are transpar­ent to customers and do not im­pact delivery or retail services,” said Ray Daiutolo Sr., south-cen­tral service area postal service spokesman based in Bellmawr, N.J.

Currently Lewes’ city and ru­ral letter carriers pick up mail for delivery at the Lewes annex on Savannah Road.

After consolidation, carriers will pick up mail at the Rehoboth Beach annex on Route 1, about a mile south of the Route 1 exit in­to Rehoboth Beach.

Carol Friend, president of Delaware Rural Letter Carrier’s Association, said consolidating operations might not be as trans­parent to customers as postal of­ficials think. “I’m concerned about the ef­fect this could have on cus­tomers. With summertime con­gestion on Route 1, it’s going to slow down travel,” Friend said.

Friend, who works in the Lewes annex, said the facility’s 15 rural carriers might need to ad­just their schedules to compen­sate for traffic.

She said carriers start work at 7:30 a.m. and are on the job eight to nine hours. Those who have children, Friend said, might need to change childcare schedules to drop-off children earlier and pick them up later.

Friend said she’s also con­cerned about merging Lewes’ larger mail-handling operation with Rehoboth’s smaller opera­tion. “It’ll be a big change for management to adjust to,” she said.

Daiutolo said in fiscal year Oct. 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2011, Lewes delivered 4 million pieces, and Rehoboth Beach delivered 5 million pieces of mail, not in­cluding mail delivered by rural carriers.

Friend said postal service em­ployees from Lewes to be based at the Rehoboth annex include postmaster, two managers and about six city and 15 rural carri­ers.

They would join Rehoboth’s postmaster, three managers, two supervisors, six city and six rural carriers, Friend said.

She said both annexes also have a few carriers who work part-time or who are on stand-by to help with seasonal high-vol­ume mail.

Although the postal service said consolidation would reduce operating costs, Friend said she doesn’t see how because in­creased travel time would re­quire pay increases for Lewes ru­ral carriers.

She said rural carriers are salaried, paid mileage and also paid based on an evaluation of the number of letters and parcels delivered. City carriers are hourly employees.

Lewes’ zip code will not change, and customers will con­tinue to receive the same servic­es as usual at the post office at 116 Front St., Daiutolo said.

“If a customer needs to re­trieve a certified letter or pack­age, they will continue to re­trieve these articles at their regu­lar post office,” he said.

Whether consolidation would result in lost jobs is not yet known. Friend said after earlier consolidations elsewhere, peo­ple did lose jobs. Daiutolo said job losses are possible.

“Down the road there may be some impacts to some positions. That will be determined after an operational review is performed. The review will be done follow­ing the merger,” he said.

Daiutolo said the post office is following collective bargaining procedures regarding employee changes.

“We are communicating regu­larly with our unions and man­agement associations. Our goal is to keep mail relevant, afford­able and growing,” he said.

Friend said the service has kept workers informed about the upcoming consolidation.

Despite cuts, service has ongo­ing financial woes Last month, the postal service released a list of 48 facilities throughout the country slated for operation consolidations. The Lewes-Rehoboth Beach an­nex consolidation is on the list.

In May, the service also listed 140 facilities as potential to con­solidate this summer. Facilities on this list – none are in Delaware – are typically closed.

According to U.S. Sen. Tom Carper the postal service is los­ing about $25 million per day.

Carper is chairman of the Sub­committee on Federal Financial Management, Government In­formation, Federal Services, and International Security.

“The postal service operates at the center of a $1 trillion mailing industry that puts as many as 8 million men and women to work each day. It's a key cog in our economy. Its continued vitality is an important part of our efforts to get our economy going again. At a time of so much economic uncertainty, we can't afford to let the postal service collapse,” Carper said recently.

The U.S. Government Ac­countability Office has found economic conditions, a changing business environment, and de­clining mail volumes have left the postal service without suffi­cient revenues to cover expenses and financial obligations.

Mail volume declined about 20 percent, from 213 billion pieces to 171 billion pieces, from fiscal year 2006 through fiscal year 2010.

By 2020, the postal service forecasts the drop to continue and handling to be about 150 bil­lion pieces.

The GAO finds the trend indi­cates the postal service can no longer rely, as it once did, on growth in mail volume to help cover costs.

Actions taken by the agency to improve its financial condition have been limited in part by statutory and regulatory require­ments, such as those related to closing unneeded facilities.

Although the postal service re­ported $12.5 billion in cost sav­ings since fiscal year 2006, the GAO finds it has not been able to cut costs quickly enough to off­set the large decline in mail vol­ume and revenue, particularly costs related to its workforce, re­tail and processing networks and delivery services. The service wants to eliminate as many as 220,000 jobs.

The postal service can borrow up to $3 billion from the U.S. Treasury annually but expects to reach its statutory $15 billion borrowing limit.

In March 2010, the service is­sued a 10-year action plan, as suggested by the accountability office. The plan called for re­structuring retiree health-bene­fit payments, eliminating Satur­day delivery, expanding access to retail services, establishing a more flexible workforce and ex­panding products and services.

The GAO recommended re­ducing compensation and bene­fit costs, and eliminating excess capacity.

Several bills introduced in 2010 included provisions for congressional action to restruc­ture benefit payments and ad­dress barriers to implementing the action plan. These bills were not enacted.

Carper said a pending Senate bill would clean up the service’s books by refunding more than $10 billion it has overpaid into the Federal Employees Retire­ment System, and set up a less­aggressive schedule for funding postal retiree health obligations.

A portion of the pension re­fund would be used to encour­age about 100,000 postal em­ployees to retire, saving as much as $8 billion per year, Carper said.