United States Postal Service officials received heated comments Wednesday night at the Reardon Center regarding its proposed decision to shut down the Kansas City, Kan., USPS Processing and Distribution Center at 5215 Richland Ave.
In front of hundreds of postal service workers, local business owners and residents, district officials from the USPS Kansas-Western Missouri division took questions for more than an hour.
The postal service is considering consolidating operations at the KCK facility into its existing facility in Kansas City, Mo. According to information passed out at the hearing, of the 301 employees at the KCK facility, 236 will be offered positions at the Kansas City, Mo., plant, with the remaining 60 or so jobs not being filled due to attrition.
"It's not our intention to have layoffs involving the area mail processing program," said Gregory Graves, manager of the Kansas and Western Missouri District. "Each one of our employees will remain employed."
The promise of few jobs being lost didn't calm the nerves of many in attendance at the hearing, including Unified Government Mayor/CEO Joe Reardon.
"We're deeply concerned about the loss of jobs from our community," Reardon told Graves. "As you move forward, I hope you carefully consider the community impact."
Richard Watkins, a spokesman for the Midwest division of USPS, said earlier this week the proposed closing is part of a broader national strategy employed by the postal service to trim back operations in first-class stamped mail, which has decreased 22 percent in volume since 1998.
Watkins added the postal service is balancing the act of maintaining customer service while become more efficient and not asking its customers for postal rate increases.
Graves told those in attendance that the Kansas City, Mo. facility has more than 1 million square feet of space, but is only using half of that, and bringing in operations from the Kansas City, Kan., facility would allow the entire operation to run more efficiently.
Reardon wasn't the only public official in attendance Monday night. State Rep. Tom Burroughs (D-33rd District), whose district includes the facility, also made comments questioning the proposal.
"This is the first time we've had to publicly discuss this issue," Burroughs said. "I ask you to strongly reconsider your decision. We want these jobs to stay here."
But some at the hearing are convinced the decision to move operations has already been made.
"The postal service has not been transparent in sharing with us how they calculated the cost savings of moving facilities," said John Savala, president of the Mail Handler's Union, Local 297. "Without that information, we can't determine if the move makes sense. But I think the meeting was a waste of time because the move is a forgone conclusion."
In information available at the hearing, the postal service estimates that more than $5.7 million will be saved if the two facilities are consolidated, with the bulk of the savings coming from "annual workload savings" of nearly $4 million.
Officials estimate the transfer of operations will cost about $1.1 million to complete.
Savala said that no formal meetings between the mail handlers and USPS officials are scheduled.
Mark Giddens, president of the American Postal Workers Union, Local No. 238, said Wednesday's meeting was just the "same old song and dance."
"It's part of the process they have to follow in order to close the facility," Giddens said. "I think this is already a done deal, but they have to allow the public to speak."
Watkins said earlier this week that no timetable has been made on when the decision will be made to consolidate, noting that public comments will be accepted until July 12. Graves told the audience the USPS is still in a discovery phase and hasn't made any official decision.
Editor's Note: A previous article about the USPS hearing contained inaccurate information supplied by the USPS. The article stated the Kansas City, Kan., facility was spread out over multiple floors, when in fact it is a single-story structure. The Kansan regrets the error.