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December 08, 2016
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Shortchanging postal customers; Closing regional sorting centers harms small businesses and postal patrons

Here’s the timeline of what happened last week: Our newspapers were dropped off at Newburgh before noon Wednesday where they were verified for their appropriate postage. After that, the papers sat, waiting to be trucked to Albany in the evening to be processed, before being trucked back to Newburgh and then sent on to local post offices in the Upper Delaware River Valley. The Newburgh postmaster held out the hope that the system might become more efficient as time goes on, but he made no promises. A conversation with a spokesperson in Albany confirmed that “periodicals typically take from two to 10 days for delivery.”

Frankly, we think this situation is intolerable, and while one would be tempted to blame the entire matter on the post office, this is not primarily a case of inefficiency. This is the result of a business decision forced on the postal service by a number of factors; among them a requirement by Congress that USPS set aside 75% (in cash) of all of its future healthcare costs for retired employees. (It is worth noting that Congress has never required this of any other business, whether public or private.)

In our opinion, Congress must either undo this requirement, freeing up those funds—allowing for a more sensible plan for sorting mail other than trucking it a hundred miles out of its way, or otherwise find the funds to underwrite the cost of running the post office—yes, even if it loses money. Among the reasons to do so is this: the post office is an essential public service that helps keep the economy running. The River Reporter offers just one example of a small business that has no other method than the mail (and in our case, newsstands) to deliver its product. There are some members of Congress who would be content to let both email and FedEx and UPS destroy the post office, but in doing so, they would be destroying countless businesses, too. In our opinion, such economic losses to the country are not acceptable.

Finally, the new system that is being put in place by consolidating postal sorting and distribution centers makes little sense from another viewpoint—the viewpoint of sustainability. What sense does it make to haul mail that was posted in Monticello or Mongaup Valley all the way to Albany, just to truck it back to be delivered in Liberty and Livingston Manor? What a waste of gasoline.

Whatever happened to “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds?” It seems that this creed is now deemed by Washington DC to be too expensive to fulfill any more.