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With the Clock Ticking on the Fate of the William Street Mail Facility, Higgins Sends FOIA Request to USPS

Congressman Demands Detailed Data Justifying Closure, Massive Job Cuts

With only one page of unsubstantiated and conflicting data released by the U.S. Postal Service regarding the closing of the mail processing facility in Buffalo, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) is exercising his right under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request clear and detailed data from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

“Western New York won’t stand by and be played for a fool,” said Higgins.  “The Postal Service wants to take an action that will impact 700 local families, thousands of local businesses and our entire economy and they give us just one page of unjustified and inconsistent numbers telling us why.  That’s not good enough.  As much as they might like us to, we’re not going to sit by quietly and let that happen.  This community deserves more than one page; this community deserves real answers based on solid, comparative, primary data so we can fight a fair fight.”  

In a letter to the U.S. Postmaster General Congressman Higgins points out inconsistencies and incomplete data in the one page “study” justifying the William Street facility closing.  In response Higgins is requesting regionally specific information about the Buffalo district, its employees and customers.
 
Below is the text of Congressman Higgins’ letter:
 
January 4, 2012
 
Hon. Patrick R. Donahoe 
Postmaster General of the United States of America
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington D.C. 20260-3500
 
Re: Buffalo P&DC
 
Dear Postmaster General:
 
The very limited information which has been provided to date regarding how the United States Postal Service (USPS) arrived at the decision to close the Buffalo Processing and Distribution Center (Buffalo PD&C) makes claims which are self-contradictory and prima facie implausible.  As such, I have come to doubt that the USPS has actually undertaken a serious cost-benefit analysis of the closure of the Buffalo PD&C.  For that reason, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law and the oversight authority conferred to my office by Article I of the U.S. Constitution, I am transmitting specific requests for information about postal operations in Buffalo and Rochester as part of this correspondence, in order to understand more clearly the supposed merit of this proposal, or the lack thereof.
 
Consider the following deficiencies regarding the “Area Mail Processing Feasibility Study”:

  • A version of the document dated 12/20/2011 indicates that 44 management positions will be eliminated, and that the annual management savings will be $3.85 million.  A subsequent, undated version of the same document indicates that only 31 management positions will be eliminated but that $3.85 million would still be saved.  This contradiction defies explanation, and suggests that the numbers are fabricated. 
  • The December 20th version shows $11.83 million in employee savings through the elimination of 168 net craft positions.  The latter version shows greater employee savings ($12.95 million) but only the same number of craft employee job cuts (168).  If the monetary savings were based in fact, there should be some relationship between changes in the job figure and the monetary figure; this lack of apparent correlation does not inspire confidence in the overall analysis. 
  • The document claims that $2.85 million would be saved on transportation costs annually.  This defies common sense.  While it is apparent that the consolidation of Processing and Distribution Centers under a new 2-3 day services standard might save money in total, transportation would be one area of increased costs.  The notion that it will save transportation costs to route a letter from South Buffalo to North Buffalo through Rochester is absurd. 
  • This document is one page.  It does not suggest that other options were studied, and does not substantiate its claims.  It does not list out one time costs (e.g., relocations, moving, mothballing) and does not suggest any study of the impact on the broader economy outside the USPS was undertaken. 

 
As such, please convey to my office the below requested information:  

  • For the past three years, an accounting of the revenues and expenses for the Buffalo and Rochester Processing and Distribution Centers, including personnel costs by title, overtime costs by title, a breakdown of cost areas including marketing costs, transportation costs, rents and utilities. 
  • A listing of all vendor contracts over $5,000 associated with either facility for the past three years. 
  • Mail volume and revenue figures for each facility by class/type of mail for each of the two facilities for three years. 
  • For the past 10 years, a listing of the capital improvements at both facilities, the date of the installation/improvement and the cost. 
  • An inventory of the major capital equipment (items valued more than $5,000 at either facility). 
  • A listing of the incidences of breakdowns/malfunctions of equipment which caused operational issues including but not limited to overtime, the transfer of mail from one PD&C to another, or unscheduled repair contracts. 
  • The USPS’s best estimate regarding the one-time costs associated with the consolidation of the Buffalo P&DC into the Rochester P&DC, including, but not limited to employee relocation, the moving of equipment, and the mothballing of facilities. 
  • Any analysis the USPS has undertaken with regard to the broader economic impact of this move to the larger community. 

 
Submission via email is preferred, though transmission via fax or U.S. Mail to my office at Buffalo, NY will be accepted.  The waiving of reproduction charges would be appropriate, however, we are prepared to pay reproduction charges.
 
Thank you for your attention to this request.  
 
Sincerely,
 
Brian Higgins
Member of Congress

...

 
The USPS will hold a public meeting on their proposal to close the Buffalo mail processing facility.  Congressman Higgins plans to testify at the hearing. Below are the details on the meeting:
What:              United States Postal Service William Street Facility Closing Public Hearing 
Where:            JFK High School, 305 Cayuga Creek Road, Cheektowaga
When:             TODAY – Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 6:00PM