Last night I moderated a Town Hall meeting hosted by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson at Dallas City Hall regarding an Area Mail Processing (AMP) Feasibility Study conducted by the United States Post Office.  AMP Studies are taking place all across the country.

Tim Vierling, Dallas Sr. Plant Manager, gave a presentation, and then took questions from the audience as well as myself.  Also involved in the conversation were Mayor Tom Leppert and State Senator Royce West.

Senator West had some very pointed comments for Mr. Vierling and the Post Office, including the fact that his office had contacted USPS about this matter at least twice without a response.  He also referenced a previous AMP study done either late ‘06 or early ‘07.

This latest AMP study apparently concludes that the Post Office will save $9.2 million annually by consolidating mail processing operations in Dallas with those at the North Texas facility located in Coppell.  I say apparently because no one outside of the Postal Service has seen this study.  Most of the savings will come from eliminating 117 jobs.

The first document on the USPS website regarding the AMP is a brief dated March 24, 2009 which says the following regarding the study:

If the feasibility study supports the business case for consolidation, we will hold a public meeting to allow members of the community to ask questions and provide feedback. We will address these questions or concerns at the public meeting.  The public’s input will be considered in any final determination.

By June 17, 2009, the Post Office had seen enough information to determine that consolidation was necessary.   A public meeting was called for July 1st at Mountain View College and the following highlights of the study we have not seen were released in a brief.

1.    Business Case:

Proposed annual savings in the AMP feasibility study is approximately $9.2 million.

2.    Postal Employees:

Due to the consolidation, a net decrease of approximately 117 positions is projected.  All reassignments will be made in accordance with collective bargaining agreements.

3.    Local Customer Considerations:

Services that are currently available from the Dallas facility will continue to be available to customers.

•    Collection box pick-up times will not change as a result of the AMP.
•    Retail services will remain the same.
•    Business mail acceptance will remain the same.
•    A local postmark will be available for stamped First-Class Mail.
•    Delivery of mail to residences and businesses will not change as a result of the AMP.

4.    Commercial Mailers:

•    Mailers who presort mail will continue to receive applicable postage discounts.
•    Mailers who drop ship mailings will continue to deposit them at the Dallas facility.

So a public meeting was called, but the public wasn’t aware.  Mr. Vierling siad that the post office’s position was that they had done everything necessary to publicize the meeting, including sending notices to media outlets and government officials.  He then admitted that Senator West’s office was left off that list and was not contacted.

I can say that Dallas South was not contacted about this public meeting either. The organization that has access to every home, business, and place of worship in America couldn’t drop a half sheet announcement in the mailbox?  That doesn’t make sense.

A recap of the July 1 meeting on the Postal Service Website says that 267 people were in attendance including a staffer from Congresswoman Johnson’s office Channel 33 KDAF.  It also lists the number of questions and comments from the meeting by category which lists “Lack of Public Input” as the most frequent topic.

I found out about the AMP Study on July 10th like most people who have expressed concerns in the days sense, receiving an email which contained a statement from Larry Walker, President of the Local American Postal Workers Union.  That’s when the public actually became involved and started to understand that the Post Office was not closing, though major changes were slated for Dallas Main.

It is clear after Monday’s town hall that the public in general and Southern Dallas specifically were not made aware of this “proposed” change.  According to reports, most of the 267 people present at the July 1st meeting at Mountain View were postal workers.

The decision seems to be already made and while there have been meetings held there is no exchange of ideas.  On Monday Mr. Vierling gave us the post office’s position, but never acknowledged the most pressing concern, which was what happens with the 117 employees who would be affected by this move.

One thing I learned about from Monday’s meeting was the concept of “stand by” rooms.  Apparently post office employees are asked to go into these “stand by” rooms whenever there is not enough work for them to do.

Questions from the audience suggested that postal workers are being paid to read magazines and do crossword puzzle in these rooms while others on the floor are being paid overtime.  Another question suggested that managers are asked not to use the workers in these rooms for performance or disciplinary reasons.  Mr. Vierling said that this is not the case.

Congresswoman Johnson is scheduled to meet with Mr. Vierling on Wednesday to tour the facilities for herself and understand why the North Texas (Coppell) facility was selected over Dallas. Hopefully she will get more answers, but one thing is clear: residents were not properly informed about this process and have not had a chance to properly give their input.