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Buchanan calls for postal review

MANATEE — A congressman Friday called for an independent review of the Postal Service’s decision to move 59 jobs to Tampa.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office asking for the non-partisan agency that works for Congress to conduct an audit.

“This would help ensure that no postal workers will unnecessarily lose their jobs or be relocated, that there will be no reduction in service, and that the promised savings are realistic and attainable,” Buchanan wrote in a letter sent Thursday.

On March 31, the Postal Service announced it will move originating mail processing and distribution operations from the Manasota Processing and Distribution Center, 850 Tallevast Road, near Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, to a facility near Tampa International Airport.

All mail that originates from the 342 prefix ZIP code will no longer be processed for distribution at the Tallevast Road facility. It will be collected from the post offices and other pick-up locations throughout the ZIP code area, which includes Manatee, Sarasota and parts of DeSoto counties, and trucked to the processing plant in Tampa.

The Postal Service said it conducted a study before making the decision and held a public forum.

“The study is the same study being used across the country in at least 17 other mail processing projects. It’s very complete. It’s thorough,” said Postal Service Spokesman Gary Sawtelle, “As we said before, it focuses on things like transportation costs, excess capacity on equipment in Tampa so we have the availability and power to run the mail from the Manasota area.”

Buchanan’s two-page letter voices concerns about jobs leaving the area, possible delays in local mail service, transporting local mail to Tampa before delivering it and states there was not transparency in the process leading to the decision.

“The USPS is saying that there will be no delay in service associated with the consolidation, but the mail will now travel over a hundred additional miles round trip before it’s delivered,” Buchanan writes. “Furthermore, postal workers say that sporadic experiments with moving these operations to Tampa have resulted in delayed mail. Finally, in 2008, 94.2 percent of Manasota trucks were on time while only 73.5 percent of Tampa trucks were on time.”

Sawtelle contends residents will not see a change in service and that the Postal Service will make every effort to keep workers local and employed. He said the statistic of delayed mail is wrong.

“It’s an internal measurement we track. What that means when a truck is scheduled to distribute mail. It has a (several) minute range where its either on time or not. If its (several) minutes late from leaving the dock, it’s considered late,” he said. “If the truck is late, it doesn’t mean the mail is going to be late. It’s a matter of minutes. ... That is not a measurement of mail service to our customers.”

Jim DeMauro, president of American Postal Workers Union Manasota Local No. 7136, which represents 40 of those 59 positions, said members are upset about the loss of jobs and the change of service to the community.

“We know it’s not going to be the same level service we have today,” he said.

The transition to Tampa is slated to begin Oct. 1.

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