Knox News: The U.S. Postal Service intends to move some of its Knoxville operations northwest to Louisville, Kentucky. And East Tennessee’s congressional delegation is not happy about it.
The proposed change is part of the post office’s Delivering for America plan, which aims to slash delivery costs and make the postal system more efficient. Operations from local processing centers – like the ones in Knoxville, Johnson City and Chattanooga – will be consolidated into large regional centers. In this case, that’s in Louisville.
The USPS had a public listening meeting in November explaining the plan, though some say it simply filled a requirement instead of offering detailed information about what the change means for workers and post office users.
Days later, U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett wrote a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy saying the meeting was a waste of time.
“Worse, the arrogance on display by the USPS and its management during this so-called meeting or listening session is unacceptable,” he wrote, adding that members of his staff reported valid questions were not answered.
Burchett was joined by Reps. Diana Harshbarger and Chuck Fleischmann in a second letter to the post office in which they emphasized East Tennessee postal facilities employ more than 1,200 constituents.
They asked questions of the postmaster general, including:
- When will a final decision about the future of handling centers be made?
- What impact will changes to facilities have on delivery standards in East Tennessee?
- What equipment changes are needed?
- What plans are in place to prevent transportation costs and added delays?
Rachel Partlow, Burchett’s communications director, told Knox News the postmaster general’s office responded to the letter but did not answer any of the questions. DeJoy simply reiterated that there will not be layoffs.
Steve Hutkins, founder of the Save the Post Office worker advocacy group, told Knox News the claim is a technicality.
Upon consolidation, employees at Knoxville’s processing and distribution center could face the choice to commute to Louisville, which is at least a 3 hour and 30 minute drive from Knoxville, transfer elsewhere or quit the post office altogether.
“That’s what (USPS) is counting on,” Hutkins said. “(Employees) will just have to leave and (USPS) will be able to say ‘We didn’t lay anybody off, but unfortunately people decided they didn’t want the job.'”
USPS predicted in a release that 32 Knoxville positions will be moved.