Missoulian: Tester writes to US Postmaster over Missoula mail delivery issues

by David Erickson

U.S. Senator Jon Tester on Friday issued a letter to U.S. Postmaster Louis DeJoy to voice his concern over a potential plan to move outgoing mail processing from Missoula to Spokane.

“I write today regarding reports I have heard from Montanans about the Mail Processing Facility Review at the Missoula Processing and Distribution Center that was recently announced by the United States Postal Service,” Tester wrote. “I share the concerns that Montanans have voiced in response to this review and oppose any plans that would reduce workforce, capacity or delivery standards for Montanans.”

The USPS had in January announced a plan to conduct a review of the Missoula facilities to see if they can be “modernized” for more efficient operations. The Postal Service said it is looking into whether outgoing mail processing services currently performed in Missoula could be done in Spokane. That would mean all outgoing mail in Missoula would be first trucked to Spokane for processing, then a lot of it bound for Missoula and western Montana would get shipped back to Missoula for delivery.

Earlier this week, the president of the local chapter of the American Postal Workers Union Local #113, Robert Hopp, told the Missoulian that he and “100%” of his fellow unionized, non-management coworkers were against any such plan. Hopp said he believed between 9-13 non-career employees would lose their jobs. Hopp also said mail delivery times would be drastically increased because the mail would have to make such a long journey. He noted that things like important tax documents, bills and medications would get delayed.

Tester seemed to share Hopp’s concerns, saying the Missoula P&DC is a critical part of postal operations in Montana.

“The center employs over a hundred Montanans and has served the community for decades,” Tester wrote. “If processing were to be moved out-of-state, mail would get sent from Missoula more than 200 miles over two mountain passes to Spokane to be sorted before any of it is sent back to be delivered. This plan would involve driving our mail in semis over Lookout Pass, which is a precarious route and is often closed due to bad weather. I fail to see how this transfer would result in improved postal service for Montanans.”

Tester said many small businesses in Montana rely on the mail system to send products to customers and many people rely on timely USPS service to send checks and mortgage payments to the banks. He also noted that mail delivery affects seniors in rural areas who depend on the mail for prescriptions and federal benefits.

“I urge you to immediately halt any proposal to move Missoula operations to Spokane and refocus efforts on improving delivery standards in rural America,” Tester concluded.

As of Friday afternoon, the Missoulian had not seen any correspondence from any of Montana’s other elected officials to DeJoy concerning Missoula mail operations.