Local leaders call for return of Toledo's mail processing operations

Kate Snyder, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
·4 min read

Apr. 8—Amid persistent delivery delays, calls are mounting locally for the U.S. Postal Service to bring mail sorting back to northwest Ohio.

The Toledo Chamber of Commerce sent out a survey last year to its members asking about mail delivery delays, and 70 percent of respondents indicated that delays had harmed their business, said Brian Dicken, vice president for advocacy and strategic initiative at the chamber.

Recently, the chamber released a follow-up survey, and the results came back worse — the previous 70 percent increased to 100 percent.

"It's not about the mail carriers," Mr. Dicken said. "They can only deliver what they have. They can't go up to the Detroit area and pick up the mail and bring it down."

Along with a number of organizations and local governments, the chamber is supporting the return of Toledo's mail processing capability. Sylvania City Council and Sylvania Township Board of Trustees this week passed resolutions calling for the return of mail processing operations, and Toledo City Council has a similar resolution on the agenda for its next meeting.

"There is clearly a problem here," Mark Frye, Sylvania City Council's president, said during a meeting Monday. "I've spoken to many constituents, many friends, and everybody's frustrated with the delivery of the mail around here."

Back in 2012, Toledo's mail processing center was downsized in 2012, with functions shifted to Pontiac, Mich. U.S. Rep. Bob Latta said it would be ideal for northwest Ohio's mail to be processed in Toledo, but also noted that delivery issues decreased when Toledo-area mail was temporarily processed in Cleveland during the election season.

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U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur said Cleveland's mail processing is facing its own issues with delays, and she believes it wouldn't be a viable solution for Toledo.

"The problem is regional," she said.

And local leaders don't see why Toledo-area mail can't stay in Toledo.

"If you ask me, I can't say that Cleveland would be any better than Detroit, but I know Detroit doesn't work," Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough said during the council meeting. "The best thing that could happen is for it to come back to Toledo."

Martin Ramirez, president of American Postal Workers Union Local 170, said despite the downsizing, the main Toledo post office facility is still there on South St. Clair Street, and with enough staff and equipment it could resume its pre-2012 operations.

Currently, he said, the facility processes less than 50 percent of what it used to do. A letter going to Pontiac, Mr. Ramirez said, has an approximately 4 1/2 -day trip. And then it's another 4 1/2 days for a reply.

That should be three days, tops, he said. A letter from Bryan to Maumee should only be a one-day or two-day trip. From one side of Toledo to the other, he said, should be a next-day delivery.

"If you control your mail ... we can get it out in a more timely fashion," he said. "We should get back to one-to-two-day deliveries."

Naddia Dhalai, a postal service spokesman, said there are currently no plans to bring mail processing operations back to Toledo.

To combat delivery delays, Ms. Dhalai said postal leadership has taken steps to stabilize operations, including working with union leadership to retain holiday employees, increase full-time staffing in facilities across the country, and continue using employee overtime.

"The Postal Service strives every day to provide excellent service to our valued customers and we apologize for any inconvenience that may have been experienced," she said in a statement. "We have returned to pre-peak operational conditions and we fully anticipate continued improvements in service performance."

Additionally, the service is grappling with a dearth of letter carriers. That issue is mostly separate from the mail processing delays, said Mike Hayden, president of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 100, but it also has contributed to local delivery delays.

Mostly, Mr. Hayden said, the lack of staffing causes late afternoon or evening deliveries.

"It's rare that things aren't getting delivered," he said. "It's rare, but it happens."

With an additional 100 new hires, though, Mr. Hayden said, he is optimistic that those delays, at least, will decrease. But because of the pandemic, it's been difficult to keep positions filled.

He is hopeful that vaccines will make a difference in the hiring setbacks.

As far as returning mail-processing operations to Toledo, Mr. Hayden said he believes it's a good idea.

"It should come back here," he said. "We're in a perfect place for distribution."

First Published April 7, 2021, 1:28pm