Push underway to restore mail processing in Lafayette

Postal workers and local leaders are striking back at a U.S. Postal Service consolidation effort that shifted the processing of Lafayette’s mail 60 miles away to Baton Rouge, a change the local postal union says lengthens delivery times.

A rally in support of bringing processing operations back to the Postal Service’s Moss Street facility is set for 2 p.m. Monday in front of the Federal Courthouse in downtown Lafayette, said Joshua Montgomery, with the local chapter of the American Postal Workers Union.

The Lafayette City-Parish Council is scheduled to discuss the issue Tuesday at the behest of Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, who said he wants local government to take a more active role in trying to restore all processing services to the Moss Street facility.

“I want Lafayette as a whole to step up and give some push-back,” Boudreaux said. “We have to do better, especially when some of these decisions are based on the input of local government.”

The plan to scale back operations at the regional mail processing center on Moss Street was first announced in 2011.

Montgomery said much of the processing was shifted to Baton Rouge beginning early last year. No workers were moved or laid off, he said, but that’s only because the employees in the roughly 20 affected positions retired.

The most obvious impact has been an increase in the standard delivery time for letters mailed within Lafayette from one day to “anywhere from 3 days to a week” because letters, even if mailed from and to a Lafayette address, must make the 120-mile trip to Baton Rouge and come back before delivery.

“Everything that we collect is going to Baton Rouge to be processed,” Montgomery said. “That, in particular, is what is causing delays.”

The changes at Moss Street are part a nationwide cost-savings plan by the Postal Service, which has been losing billions of dollars a year.

Boudreaux said he worries that the consolidation of processing services in Baton Rouge is coming at the expense of efficient service for Lafayette and the entire southwest Louisiana region that was served by the Moss Street processing center.

Retirees wait longer on their checks, prescription drug shipments might be delayed, invitations for weddings and graduations — sometimes sent at the last minute — might be delayed even more, Boudreaux said.

“This impacts everyone, not just Moss Street,” Boudreaux said. “... It just creates a lot of hardships and inconveniences that need to be avoided.”

The councilman also said he worries of what the future might hold if the Postal Service looks for more cuts in the area.

“The last thing we need is facility of that magnitude to be abandoned in that community,” Boudreaux said.

The City-Parish Council in 2011 passed a resolution urging the Postal Service to keep the regional processing center at Moss Street, and several officials, including U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., came together for a news conference at the Moss Street site in 2012 to speak in opposition to scaling back operations there.

Boudreaux said that interest has since slacked off.

“I am not satisfied with the effort,” he said.

The recent changes have not impacted the retail portion of the Moss Street post office.