By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The U.S. Postal Service is asking local businesses that mail in bulk to consider mailing earlier or driving to Charleston for speedy first-class delivery as part of the second phase of consolidating the Bluefield Mail Processing and Distributing Center.
In a letter sent to area businesses, the postal service requested bulk mailing businesses either have their first-class mail received by 3 p.m. or “considering entering your mail at the Charleston facility” on or by Feb. 1, 2013 when the second phase of the consolidation of the facility begins. Cathy Yarosky, a spokesperson with the U.S. Postal Service, said only business customers will be impacted by the new request.
“The letter is only for our bulk business mail of BMEU customers, not for residential customers,” Yarosky said. “Residential customers will not see any changes which is why they did not get this letter. Our BMEU customers have known about these changes since our Area Mail Processing meeting in August of 2011. This letter provides them with the details that they need to know in order to schedule and prepare their mail operations.
Yarosky said there are only a few businesses in Bluefield that use the bulk business mailing option.
“Only our BMEU customers would understand the language in this letter as they are very familiar with our operations and we have been working closely with them since we first announced the Bluefield AMP so that they would have plenty of time to prepare for this transition,” she said. “This is not information for the general public. Only a very small percentage of our Bluefield customers are BMEU mailers.”
Mayor Linda Whalen said it is “ludicrous” to expect Bluefield businesses or anyone in the local area to make a four-hour round-trip drive to Charleston to send mail.
“This is our tax dollars at work,” Whalen said. “Everyone in the city of Bluefield needs to contact their legislators about this recommendation for us. That is a ludicrous suggestion that we deposit first-class mail in Charleston. The alternative for us is to quit using the U.S. Postal Service and use other mail carrying services. That is not a viable alternative for people in southern West Virginia. It is ridiculous. Someone obviously that is in control of the mail in West Virginia does not know the location of Bluefield or they wouldn’t make a suggestion like that.”
Whalen said citizens and business owners must fight back if Bluefield wants to be treated fairly by the postal service.
“Frankly, when we had the hearing the powers that be from the U.S. Postal Service in Bluefield, it was obvious then this was a done deal and that hearing was a dog and pony show,” she said. “The city board fights these things, but until our citizens start taking an active role in complaining to legislators and the postal service they will not take us into account. I don’t think this is an option for anyone in Bluefield. The wealthiest person in the state maybe can make the drive to Charleston to mail something first class, but this is not an option for people here. You could hand deliver your mail faster than taking it to Charleston.
Delegate-elect John Shott said he thinks it is “unrealistic” to suggest anyone drive from Bluefield to Charleston for mail delivery.
“I have not seen the letter, but if that is what it says I think that is just outrageous,” Shott said. “It is just not feasible for people to pay $12 round trip on the turnpike to deliver their mail to Charleston. I think this is unrealistic to have people to drive to Princeton from Bluefield to drop off their mail let alone drive to Charleston. This explains by the postal service is failing. They are out of touch with reality.”
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., also described asking Mercer County businesses to take their mail to Charleston as “ridiculous.”
“It underscores just how impractical some of these of these mail facility consolidations are,” Rahall said. “I have been pushing back against these closures and consolidations since the beginning and I am somewhat encouraged that, at least for now, the postal service has backed away from closing so many of our post offices as originally proposed. Although, we still must contend with reduced hours and the loss of our mail processing facility in Bluefield. I will keep pushing hard and I encourage residents to do the same in preserving the mail delivery services we are entitled to under the law.”
— Contact Kate Coil at firstname.lastname@example.org