Complaints of late mail delivery and sometimes no mail at all some days in Lycoming County, parts of Clinton County and beyond can be traced back to a specific action: the final closure of a mail-sorting facility in Williamsport on June 1.
A United States Postal Service spokesman and several postal employees who talked to the Sun-Gazette agree that the closure of the city's mail processing facility at 2901 Reach Road is causing problems with delivery.
Because of that however, businesses are missing out on payments being sent to them while area letter carriers have been out on routes past 9 p.m. Some letter carriers have been waiting hours each morning for mail to arrive, all while being on the clock.
SUN-GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
Post office employees Colleen Kelly, right, and Barb Eichenlaub sort mail in this Dec. 15, 2008, file photo taken at the Reach Road post office in Williamsport.
The Reach Road post office still is open, but mail no longer is processed there.
"We are standing around for hours at a time, doing nothing. We're getting paid for doing nothing," said Jared Bowes, local president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 50, which covers multiple counties in central and northcentral Pennsylvania.
An independent contract carrier in Clinton County, who doesn't get paid overtime, said his mail has been routinely delayed for months and that no first-class mail was delivered on at least one occasion recently.
One employee, who asked not to be identified and works at the city facility, said an entire shipment of 5,000 pieces of mail destined for Cogan Station was "misplaced" this week.
That employee also said that 1,400 hours of overtime and 400 hours of double-time were issued by the Postal Service last week because letter carriers had to wait for mail to arrive from Harrisburg.
The city postal facility ceased all sorting operations at the beginning of June. Mail now is being transported to and sorted at a Harrisburg facility.
"The issues you cited appear to have been related to an adjustment to that activity," said Ray V. Daiutolo Sr., a Postal Service spokesman, when asked about recent delays. "I understand that the district has identified the cause and has begun to make the appropriate adjustments to address the opportunities. We are committed to ensuring a smooth transition for our customers. We expect that our customers will begin to experience the regular levels of service they are accustomed to from the USPS. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our customers."
But local Postal Service employees warned more than a year ago that such delays would happen when the Reach Road facility was slated to be closed.
"In my honest opinion, what it is, is the Harrisburg plant has not been able to do what it said it was going to do," Bowes said.
When the Postal Service announced in late 2011 that processing could move from the city to Harrisburg, local employees said service here would suffer because efficiency rates are much lower at the Harrisburg plant.
"Harrisburg was consistently at the bottom," Bowes said. "I don't know what the answer is down there. They should have never taken processing out of Williamsport, because it's not working."
Bowes said he and other Postal Service employees are frustrated with what's happening and are not getting answers from management.
"It's destroying the service from within," he said. "They haven't said anything. That's the problem. They're seeing the tremendous amount of waiting time. They see the problem.
"We're day 18 into this and it's not getting any better. It's hurting our customers. The customers are getting fed up and what are they going to do? They're going to use another service."
Even to mail a letter now from the city to South Williamsport takes five days, Bowes confirmed. Before the change, 95 percent of local mail was delivered the next day, he said.
Daiutolo, however, said that shouldn't happen.
"That should not be the case. If a customer had that issue, it was most likely an isolated incident," he said.
The employee who wished to remain unnamed said some mail isn't being postmarked the day it's dropped off to make it appear as if it reaches its destination more quickly.
"They knew about this a year ago," the employee said. "Why weren't they prepared by June 1?"