The consolidation of a mail-processing center in Long Beach with a facility in Los Angeles earlier this summer went according to plan, and any discrepancies in mail service experienced by customers in Signal Hill and Long Beach were not likely a result of the merger, said a United States Postal Service (USPS) official.
“Overall, it’s gone pretty smoothly,” said Richard Maher, USPS spokesperson for Los Angeles and Orange counties. “There might have been blips here and there as we adjusted, but, overall, the service has been good… I think overall it’s been pretty transparent to most of the community that you still drop a letter in the collection box, and it still gets delivered.”
As a way to cut costs, mail-processing operations at 2300 Redondo Ave. in Long Beach were combined with a center in downtown Los Angeles on July 1.
Retail service, P.O. box delivery, mail collection and bulk business-mail acceptance at the post office named after former Congressmember Stephen Horn at the Long Beach site will continue to remain open.
The Los Angeles plant now handles all mail for ZIP codes with 900- through 905- as well as 907-(Signal Hill) and 908-(Long Beach), Maher said. Conjoining the operations included transferring equipment over to the Los Angeles site and reassigning some 400 employees from the Long Beach facility to vacant positions, such as carrier jobs.
The Long Beach consolidation is one of 140 planned for mail-processing centers across the country due to rising employee-benefit costs and a decline in mail volume as communication and business transactions continue to move online.
The Signal Tribune asked mail customers in Long Beach and Signal Hill via social media whether they had experienced any problems with mail delivery recently. Responses ranged from a few residents stating they received mail a week late to some who stated their mail was sent to the wrong address.
Other residents, however, sympathized with USPS, stating it didn’t matter what time they receive the mail. Others said they don’t rely on mail as much since they do most transactions online or electronically.
The most common thread, however, was that residents noticed their mail being delivered at later times in the day than normal, in some cases as late as 7pm.
Mylissa Graves, a Signal Hill resident who lives on Lemon Avenue, said in a phone interview she has seen mail carriers coming to drop off mail at 5:30pm and 6:30pm. “That’s kind of late for the mailman, don’t you think?” she asked. Though she doesn’t receive as much mail as in the past, since she now makes most transactions online, Graves said she still relies on the mail for some bills.
Maher said the Long Beach post office and Los Angeles District management confirmed that letter carriers in the Long Beach area have been delivering mail late into the evening the Tuesday after the Labor Day holiday due to “unforeseen staffing issues and double mail volume from the holiday.”
He said this was an “isolated anomaly” and had nothing to do with the consolidation of mail-processing operations. In fact, he said the consolidation has enabled carriers to deliver mail earlier than in the past since they are spending less time in the office and more time in the field. Carriers handling Signal Hill now operate out of the Redondo Avenue facility, while carriers for Long Beach work out of post offices throughout the city.
Other than that, Maher said sometimes during summer months mail may be delivered later. He said a lot of the time the reason for mail being delivered in the evening hours is adjustments in routes.
Since USPS has to keep carrier routes at eight hours per carrier, specific routes are constantly being “pivoted” as mail volume fluctuates, Maher said. Staffing is also adjusted due to workers taking sick days and vacation time.
“As we adjust these routes, people get their mail at different times of the day,” Maher said. “That’s just a temporary blip in the service as we have to adjust staffing to cover these routes during the course of business situations where we don’t have a carrier on every route.”
In terms of mail being received days late, Maher said the only recent change for customers is that last September the USPS shrunk its overnight mail-delivery range for first-class mail coming from Orange County.
Before the change, service areas in nearly all of Southern California, from Los Angeles down to the border of Mexico, had overnight first-class mail, but the service standard now is that mail from Orange County into the Long Beach area and vice versa takes two days, he said. Any mail going to the East Coast, such as New York, now takes three days.
“Because of the cost of maintaining this huge infrastructure for first-class mail, it’s no longer financially sustainable because of our financial problems and lack of any type of legislation from Congress to address the financial problems that we’re having,” he said. “There was an adjustment made to that.”
Maher added, however, that the change shouldn’t have caused mail to be more than a day late. “Some people over the course of the year during their regular correspondence may have noticed mail taking a day longer because of that change in the overnight area for first-class mail but certainly nothing more than one day,” he said.
Maher said customers should check with their local post office to see if overnight or two-day delivery is offered for a specific destination. He said next-day delivery varies for mail-service areas of San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County, Orange County and San Gabriel Valley. Maher said the current overnight service area for first-class mail deposited in the Long Beach and Signal Hill area includes ZIP codes beginning with 900- to 905- as well as 907- and 908-.
The IBM corporation independently monitors the USPS for its first-class mail service, Maher said, adding that, so far, scores for the Los Angeles plant are “stable,” and are in the 95-percentile range for delivery.
Additionally, Maher said the Office of Inspector General conducts an audit of each plant consolidation. The most recent report was for the plant in the City of Industry, which had its outgoing mail-processing operations consolidated with a center in Santa Ana.
Maher said a report concluded that the consolidation achieved approximately $1.32 million in annual cost savings, which was more than what USPS had projected. The analysis also indicated that capacity exists at the Santa Ana site to process the mail, customer service was “minimally impacted,” no career employees were laid off at either location, USPS guidelines were followed and there was no impact to the business case.
As for the Long Beach facility, which includes a 326,362-square-foot building on a 784,411 square-foot site, Maher said, “No decision has been made at this time to its future use or disposition.”