Las Vegas Sun

May 22, 2024

Sparks fly as Sen. Rosen grills USPS chief on Reno mail plans

Reno Postal Facility

Special to the Sun

The U.S. Postal Service wants to repurpose the Reno Processing and Distribution Center into a local processing center. The conversion is projected to save the Postal Service up to $4.2 million annually but would mean mail destined for Northern Nevada addresses would first go through a USPS processing and distribution center in Sacramento, Calif.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen lambasted Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the U.S. Postal Service in a Senate committee hearing Tuesday over what Nevada’s junior senator called their misguided proposal to downsize and relocate mail processing operations from Reno to Sacramento, Calif.

DeJoy, appointed to the position during the Trump administration, was at the Capitol to testify before the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. There, Rosen peppered him with a series of questions and comments highly critical of the Postal Service’s plans, its lack of transparency and the negative effects to turn the Reno Processing and Distribution Center into a local processing center, which would necessitate diverting mail that now would be destined for the Reno center to a Postal Service facility in Sacramento, then returned to Reno for delivery.

The effect of the proposal, first announced in February, would spur unnecessary delays for postal customers in Northern Nevada, including elderly Nevadans and veterans who depend on the mail for delivery of prescription medicines and Social Security benefits, among other documents and packages.

“Under your proposal, if one of my constituents in Reno were to mail a birthday card to her mother who lives on the other side of town, the letter’s gonna be driven 130 miles over to Sacramento, California, and then sent 130 miles back to Nevada to reach its final destination,” Rosen told DeJoy.

The 260-mile round trip, Rosen said, can be a challenge for travel even without trying to achieve the Postal Service’s unmet standard of two days of receiving and delivering mail in the Reno area.

“I point this out because in order to take local mail from Reno to Sacramento and back to Reno, as you propose, your trucks will need to go through the Donner Pass. I hope you’re familiar with that. It’s on I-80. It’s the only way to get through Reno to Sacramento, which is subject to some of the most extreme weather conditions in the contiguous United States with over 33 feet of snow annually, 100 mile per hour winds, and treacherous conditions during wildfire season,” she said.

Rosen then asked DeJoy if he knew how many days a year the Donner Pass was closed by extreme weather conditions.

“Why would I know that,” responded DeJoy, who has resisted several calls to resign but can only be removed by the nine-member U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors.

“Well, you’re the postmaster general, and you’re saying that you’re going to go over this,” Rosen said. “So, let me tell you. There were 15 road closures for over 37 days of closures just last winter alone. ‘

Had he collected data on the potential impact on mail service of those closings, Rosen pressed. “Yes. Within the organization,” DeJoy answered.

Rosen then asked for the data, pointing out that entreaties from her office and the offices of fellow Nevadans, Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, to the Postal Service for data related to the Reno center had gone unanswered.

“Your staff has continued to assert that your plan won’t undermine delivery standards for Nevada, but they haven’t been able to explain how this is possible or provide me (with) any of the data you’ve collected,” Rosen said. “… Your team, they came and met with us, but they have not engaged with stakeholders in Nevada. I have talked to every one of our city councils. They have yet to receive data. And Senator Cortez Masto, myself, and Congressman Amodei didn’t receive it either.”

When Rosen asked DeJoy whether the Postal Service had studied the effects the proposed move would have on Nevada seniors and veterans, he answered that all “delivery points” were treated the same.

Rosen continued pressing DeJoy, specifically about the effect on mail service to the state’s 225,000 military veterans.

The postmaster general reiterated that it should not have an impact “if a veteran lives at a delivery point in Nevada,” mispronouncing the state’s name ‘Ne-vah-da.”

That brought a correction from Rosen, “It’s Nevada, sir. Please say it correctly. It’s Nevada. (Ne-vad-uh).”

DeJoy continued, “If a veteran lives at a delivery point, our intention is to give them their mail in a timely service.”

“You’re not meeting it now,” Rosen said, “and you have not (provided) us the data of what you made this assessment on. I hope to see that as quickly as possible.”

Last month, Rosen and Cortez Masto joined a group of more than 20 senators in a letter urging DeJoy to stop any changes or relocations to Postal Service processing facilities that would result in job losses and further degrade mail delivery performance, especially in rural states.