By Elise Franco
Closing the Youngstown mail-processing and distribution center would be catastrophic for the city, said dozens who attended a public meeting on the matter.
Those people, including Mahoning Valley residents, local politicians and postal service employees, voiced those concerns Wednesday evening at a public meeting at Boardman High School’s Performing Arts Center.
Postal officials said no final decision on the closure has been made, and it will continue to accept comments until Jan. 12.
The meeting drew several hundred who oppose the loss of the Youngstown center.
Retired postal worker Ellis Williams said he thinks the postal service should be working to expand and better serve, rather than cut.
“Our country is in shambles, and the postal service is proposing to escalate the damage,” he said. “Taking the mail out of Youngstown will devastate this city. ... Pittsburgh is more able to absorb the loss of employment.”
David Betras, Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman, asked Todd Hawkins, the U.S. Postal Service’s northern Ohio district manager, to explain why Youngstown’s center would close when the city’s economy would take a much greater hit than Pittsburgh’s.
“We have suffered here for 30 years with job loss, so take that into account,” he said. “Why can’t you do [the merging] here?”
The postal service previously had selected the Youngstown facility, along with 251 others nationwide, to close as part of a restructuring effort.
The Youngstown center, home to about 500 employees, could have closed as early as March, but pressure from Congress prompted a moratorium on post-office terminations, Dominic Corso, president of American Postal Workers’ Union Local 443 has said.
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, said he came to Wednesday’s meeting to hear the postal service’s reasoning behind the proposed closure.
“I’m concerned with job loss and the loss in service quality that people here would experience,” he said. “Some changes need to be made, but I hope some presence will remain here in Youngstown.”
The postal service already has said that first-class mail will soon take two to three days to deliver, not the standard one-day delivery.
Hawkins cited declining mail delivery as the main reason for the closing. Though the postal service still delivers more than 167 billion pieces of mail annually, that represents a 20 percent decline from 2006, he said.
Public comments are being accepted through Jan. 12 on the proposed closing of the Youngstown mail-processing and distribution center.
Hawkins said the Area Mail Processing study that has recommended merging the Youngstown facility with one in Pittsburgh will not be complete for about three months.
Meanwhile, area residents can mail their comments to complete. Management, Consumer and Industry Contact, Northern Ohio District, 2400 Orange Ave. Room 25, Cleveland 44101.
Hawkins outlined other reasons that the AMP study recommended maintaining the Pittsburgh facility over Youngstown’s.
He said the Pittsburgh facility is larger and better equipped to handle an influx of mail volume from Youngstown, as well as other facilities that may shut down as a result of the downsizing.
“When the criteria for the study is set it goes through different elements — the ability of the equipment, ability to handle volume of mail, facility size,” he said. “It’s about where it’s best for us. ... It’s based on data.”
“We can’t afford to keep all the machines running and run our trucks across the country,” he said. “With this proposal we expect an annual savings of more than $7.7 million.”