Legislators criticize U.P. USPS changes

A U.S. Postal Service employee works outside a post office in Wheeling, Ill., Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

HANCOCK — State and federal legislators opposed a U.S. Postal Service decision to move ahead with a plan to reorganize mail operations at its processing and distribution center in Kingsford following months of vocal protest from residents and local officials who said it would worsen mail service in the region.

As part of the changeover, mail processing outgoing operations will be transferred to the Green Bay processing and distribution center, the USPS said in a release announcing the move Tuesday afternoon. This would also apply to mail sent between addresses in the Upper Peninsula.

“Currently, a majority of mail and packages are destined outside the Iron Mountain area to the rest of the world,” the USPS said in the release.

The USPS announced it would invest up to $6.3 million in Iron Mountain’s center, up from the estimated $3 million to $5 million given in an initial findings document in February.

Tuesday’s announcement comes after a business review and public hearings on the change.

In a joint statement with other U.P. state lawmakers, State Sen. Ed McBroom said the hearings made it clear USPS was aware of U.P. postal needs such as the Veterans Administration hospital in Iron Mountain, water sampling needs and other issues.

“They even admitted they distort mail delivery time by only counting the time after processing so something bigger was driving this,” said McBroom, R-Waucedah Township. “Since the meeting I have learned the main motivation for all this is to reduce the USPS’s carbon footprint and save the planet from climate change — changing their plan was as likely as changing the mind of a cult member.”

Other members also opposed the decision.

“Whatever their justification for this closure, rural postal service has been sacrificed,” said State Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock. “The USPS was never interested in reasoning — our hope all along was in political pressure and we counted on Sen. (Gary) Peters who controls their funding but he failed us.”

Since mail service was reorganized into the U.S. Postal Service in 1970, the organization has been expected to be self-sustaining. Congress has approved some expenditures, recently including debt relief and $10 billion in COVID relief funding.

Rep. Jenn Hill, D-Marquette, said she is deeply concerned about the negative impact of the USPS plan, particularly in Kingsford.

“The closure will be very detrimental to the residents of the U.P., exacerbating existing challenges in mail delivery and significantly diminishing the reliability of vital postal services,” she said.

Peters, who chairs the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, had been critical of the proposed changes. He had given U.S. Postmaster Louis DeJoy a deadline of May 1 to show the overhauls would not significantly negatively impact mail operations.

During a hearing in April, he said early pilot testing at other locations had resulted in substantial declines in on-time mail delivery. In Atlanta, only 36% of in-bound first-class mail was delivered on time after the alterations, he said.

Tuesday’s consolidations are part of the USPS’s 10-year Delivering for America plan, which the USPS said was aimed at becoming an “efficient, high-performing, world-class logistics and delivery provider.”

The reconfiguration of the Iron Mountain center would save the USPS an estimated $1.1 million to $1.5 million annually, the Iron Mountain Daily News reported in April.

The largest portion of the upgrades, $3.9 million, will go towards installing a Flex Rover Sorter Quad. Another $2.4 million will go towards upgrades and deferred maintenance, the USPS said, such as lighting and renovated bathrooms and breakrooms.

In the statement, the USPS said there would be no career layoffs. Any reduction in pre-career employees, as well as career bargaining unit reassignments, would be made in accordance with collective bargaining agreements.

Changes at the facility will also include new self-service tools, such as keyless Smart Lockers to which people can send and receive packages directly, the USPS said.

Upper Peninsula county boards have also passed resolutions opposing the move. Last month, U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman co-sponsored the bipartisan Protect Postal Performance Act. The bill would bar the USPS from closing, consolidating or moving services from any Postal Service processing and distribution center within a USPS region that had failed to meet USPS delivery targets of 90.3% on-time delivery for three-to-five-day first-class mail and 93% on-time delivery for two-day first-class mail. Northern Michigan and the U.P. currently experience a 75.2% on-time delivery rate for three-to-five-day mail and a 91.2% on-time delivery rate for two-day mail, Bergman said in a release last month.

Bergman’s bill was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability.


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