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Region 8 Investigates: Could mail processing return to Jonesboro?

Updated: Oct. 8, 2020 at 11:21 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - When the Jonesboro Processing Center shut down in 2012 and moved to Memphis, mail service in rural communities, like Cherry Valley, took a hit.

Cherry Valley City Recorder and Treasurer Stacey Bennett said it has had a major impact on the people in her community.

“This is an issue that is causing our taxpayers money,” Bennett said.

According to Bennett, mail delivery in town has been a problem for years.

She has received numerous complaints from residents who have acquired late fees on bills because mail takes weeks to get delivered, or gets lost in the delivery process.

“You can see it with the tracking number, but it gets all the way to Memphis and once it gets to Memphis, it just sets there,” Bennett said. “I’ve been told, you know, they run off conveyors. If they fall in between the crack, you know, sometimes that’s not noticed. I’m not sure, to be honest.”

Bennett has been in contact with Congressman Rick Crawford’s Office for years pushing to reopen the processing center to Jonesboro.

“I’ve asked the congressman straight out in emails multiple times why we are sending our mail across state lines and why are we not trying to push to keep the jobs in Arkansas,” Bennett said.

In a video call with Region 8 News, Congressman Crawford spoke about the volume of calls that come into his office solely about problems with mail service.

“We’ve been in this fight since day one,” Crawford said. “We hear about it all the time and I mean we get calls pretty much weekly.”

During his first term in Congress, Crawford fought to keep operations going at the Jonesboro processing facility.

“We were unsuccessful in pushing back to prevent that from happening,” Crawford said.

He even conducted a surprise visit to the facility in Memphis in 2018.

“There’s a reason why I did it and it was in direct response to some complaints we had,” Crawford said. “We’re going to demand that they provide a high level of quality service that’s all there is to it.”

While he would prefer to reopen the sorting facility in Jonesboro, he said it would not be an easy task.

“Because they provide their own funding, it’s a little bit difficult to really get their attention sometimes and so it’s going to take a legislative process.”

According to Crawford, it would have to happen through the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But with very little considered on the floor outside of what’s deemed essential, other legislation has been put on the backburner.

“I’m hoping we’ll get the opportunity when we get on the other side of this COVID pandemic, that we’ll have an opportunity to do some more things,” Crawford said.

After so many years of problems, Bennett is ready to see action.

“I’ve asked for what the plan is by all the documentation we have submitted...still no plan other than it’s a priority he’ll have a meeting with us in 2021,” Bennett said. “I think that’s absurd…but opening Jonesboro back up absolutely would be a big help to this community around here.”

While Crawford and Bennett are not ready to throw in the towel, the United States Postal Service provided the following statement:

“The Postal Service is committed to consistently providing the best possible customer service to our valued customers. We are continually improving our efficiency by consolidating the use of space in our plants and post offices, as well as right-sizing our staffing, equipment, and transportation to meet the changing mail profile. This assessment process has become increasingly important due to the significant reduction in the volume of single-piece First-Class Mail.

In 2011, Headquarters conducted studies of the Postal Service’s nationwide plant network, including public meetings and soliciting input from our customers and mailers. This national assessment of postal operations included the Jonesboro, Arkansas mail processing plant. Ultimately, senior management concluded the justification existed to proceed with the national network consolidation. The consolidation was necessary to ensure the new plant structure conformed to the new mail volumes and service standards. The former mail process plant located in Jonesboro, Arkansas will not be reopened.

We urge our Northeast Arkansas customers with concerns or questions about their mail delivery service to contact the Postal Service directly. Customers have a variety of options for contacting the Postal Service, including contacting their local Post Office, calling 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777) or visiting our website at www.usps.com/help.”

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