WHEELING - If you ask Jim Tysk, Don Bentz and Georgianna Hartzell, the U.S. Postal Service's plan to save $953,000 by moving 11 jobs out of the Friendly City is just "smoke and mirrors."
Postal officials, however, insist a nationwide loss of $8.5 billion in 2010 will only be a sign of losses to come if the agency does not consolidate its mail processing operations into the Pittsburgh office.
During the public hearing at Wheeling Park High School on Wednesday regarding the Area Mail Processing study that recommends moving the processing work to Pittsburgh, union postal employees clashed with management on whether the change would save any money - and whether it would result in delivery delays for customers.
Photo by Casey Junkins
U.S. Postal Service employee Jim Tysk strongly opposes the plan to remove 11 mail processing jobs from Wheeling during a Wednesday public hearing.
Charles McCreadie, district manager for the Western Pennsylvania District of the postal service, said, "There is a perception that (Area Mail Processing) will delay your mail. That is simply not true."
However, postal service employee Tysk said some local public employees have experienced delays in receiving their paychecks since the service moved some of the processing jobs out of Wheeling last year.
"How would you like it if your paycheck was delayed three days?" he asked McCreadie.
Tysk also referred to a study conducted by The Intelligencer last year, in which the newspaper mailed 28 letters from various locations throughout the Wheeling area to see when they would arrive. Most of the letters arrived at their destinations the next day.
"I guess having most of them arrive on time is good enough," Tysk told his superiors.
Calling the meeting a "total waste of time," Tysk said the service was using "smoke and mirrors" to show a $953,000 savings from the plan.
McCreadie emphasized no workers would lose their jobs, noting no employee would have to drive more than 20 miles from Wheeling to reach their relocated job site.
"I know a lot of times (mail) handlers or clerks don't think about the carrier craft, but they might if it meant being able to stay in Wheeling," he said, noting the office has some open positions for mail carriers.
Bentz, president of the Wheeling Area Local of American Postal Workers Union, said the public hearing is just a legal formality.
"The decision has been made," he said following the meeting. "Some mail is going to be on time, but some won't."
Georgianna Hartzell is the wife of 24-year Wheeling post office employee Ken Hartzell, who is deaf. She said her husband requested that the service provide an interpreter so he could address the meeting and follow what others were saying.
Earlier on Wednesday, a woman named Elizabeth Knollinger said she had spoken with postal service spokesman Tad Kelley about the interpreter, claiming he told her the service "would not provide an interpreter."
When Georgianna Hartzell told Kelley about this during the Wednesday meeting, she mentioned that Knollinger is an interpreter, to which Kelley said, "I tried to hire an interpreter."
"Ms. Knollinger never identified herself as an interpreter," he said, noting he would have accommodated her had she notified him of this.
Georgianna Hartzell said she was disappointed no interpreter was provided, while also noting some of the mail she has recently gotten from Columbus, Ohio has been late.
Kelley said later he understands the frustration employees have when their jobs are at risk of being moved. He added a final decision on moving the postal jobs to Pittsburgh will be made "in the fall."
As part of its continuing efforts to downsize, the postal service has also proposed closing offices in the West Virginia communities of Dallas, Short Creek and Windsor Heights.
No final decision has been made, as those sites are only now being studied for closure.
In Ohio, the communities of Lafferty, Warnock, Blaine, Barton, Alledonia, Bannock, Fairpoint, Glencoe, New Athens, Piedmont, Empire and Cameron in Monroe County may also lose their offices.
West Liberty is also slated to lose its post office, due to a land value dispute between the postal service and the building owner. McCreadie said the service is negotiating with West Liberty University officials about operating a post office in cooperation with the university.
West Liberty President Robin Capehart previously confirmed these negotiations.