RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It turns out postal problems are still plaguing central Virginia.
We've received hundreds of emails and phone calls this month about mail still being delivered late and postal carriers on the street well after dark. You asked NBC12 to continue its investigation.
Despite assurances that mail delivery issues were being addressed and more people were hired-- the problems continue.
Our investigation uncovered an audit by the Inspector General's Office done last summer. The Sandston plant-- the place every piece of your mail goes-- was one of the worst in the country for delaying it. We showed you numerous pictures of your mail left inside the building, going undelivered for weeks.
The new plant manager, brought in to turn Sandston around, told us he'd made new hires and trained employees.
"It definitely got better and it will continue to get better," said Sandston Plant Manager Issac Cronkhite.
Cronkhite promised that carriers were no longer delivering after dark.
"Now consistently they get off the street by 6:00 p.m. and we're pushing toward 5:00 p.m. Which means customers get their mail on time and it's an indicater of our process improvements here," said Cronkhite last month.
We hit the streets last week, nearly a month after that interview, and found carriers still on the job, late into the night. Mail trucks still making stops. During this delivery-- it's nearly 8:00 p.m.
A common occurrence for this central Virginia neighborhood.
"Times are getting later and later at night."
We're not identifying which street so carriers are not singled out, but Wayne Baker and his wife, and all of their neighbors, tracked their mail delivery for one week.
They have no street lights. You can see how dark it gets if the porch light is not on. Night after night, the carrier arrived at 7:40, 8:00, 8:30, 9:10... and on Saturday, November 12-- the neighborhood was stunned.
"We'd already gone to bed and we heard this click click.. and we looked up and it was like 10:04 the mail came. I said you know I said this is an unreal situation to have mail coming at 10:00 at night."
"It still happens and they want us off the streets by 5:00. They (management) say it's unsafe." This carrier agreed to go on camera if we hid their voice and identity. They blame the late nights on the Sandston Distribution Center.
"The mail is not getting to the local post offices from the Sandston plant until late. They're not processing the mail where they can get it to us earlier where we can get on the streets earlier."
RACHEL: "Are you still delivering mail that you look at and go, oh, this came in weeks ago?" CARRIER: "Yes, days, weeks, late."
The postal service is considering closing a distribution center in Norfolk, Virginia. There is a meeting scheduled for next week in Norfolk. If it closes, the mail volume would be added to the Sandston plant.
The US Postal Service is drowning in billions of debt, and could default in the coming weeks. There's even talk of a future bankruptcy. The postal service has asked congress to step in.
We will continue to follow this situation.
Statement from Michele Martel, Sandston Plant Spokesperson:
The Richmond District continues to address the concerns raised as a result of the Postal Service's Office of the Inspector General's audit. The process improvements that have been put in place have reduced the impact of the recent volume spike associated with the Fall mailing season, but we acknowledge there is still more work to be done.
We are confident that as the volumes return to more normal levels that mail flow will return to and surpass the levels of improvements that we achieved in September. Substantial work is being done to establish processes and controls that can better handle peak volume periods.
We are a 24-hour operation: the mail moves through processing to the delivery units while most people are asleep. While mail delivery traditionally makes up an 8-10 hour window of that operation, there are times when we have to go beyond that to meet our customers' needs.
We have seen an increase in street time for our letter carriers. We care about and monitor the safety concerns of our carriers. These employees are trained professionals and, try as we can to avoid it, sometimes we have had carriers delivering after dark. This was the case on Saturday, November 12th, the day after the Veterans Day holiday. Although the carriers were not at work to deliver it, the mail continued to arrive for them at the delivery units. Carriers typically report for duty at 8:30AM and this increased work load combined with the change to Daylight Savings Time caused them to be out delivering after dark.
Our ultimate goal is to safely and accurately deliver every piece, every day and to have our carriers back by 5 PM. There are times when mail volume, staffing, and other circumstances require our employees to go the extra mile for our customers and to deliver beyond that time to get the job done. We have experienced that in sections of the Richmond delivery area over the past few weeks, when some carriers have had to deliver mail past our target. We are committed to providing our customers with excellent service and addressing the issues which cause late delivery.
As always, customers are invited to report their specific mail concerns to 1-800-275-8777 and we will follow up with them.