USPS to close Norfolk Plant, Transfer work to Sandston

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - More mail than ever before will be handled at the Sandston Processing and Distribution Center. The United States Postal Service announced today it plans to close its Norfolk plant and move that mail to Richmond.

As we've been reporting, other consolidations into Richmond's plant have not gone smoothly, but the USPS has said these cuts are necessary to keep mail delivery as we know it alive.

We first uncovered mail delivery problems at the plant last year. We showed you pictures of your mail stacked up and sitting on the plant floor-- going undelivered for weeks.

An audit last May ranked the Sandston Plant the worst in the country for delaying mail. We found overworked postal carriers making stops after 10:00 at night.

To address the issues, the Postal Service brought in a new plant manager and began making changes.

Complaints coming into to NBC12 about delivery troubles have leveled off. But, now more mail is headed to Sandston. This distribution center in Norfolk will be closed, eliminating 260 jobs and saving the Postal Service about 20 million a year. The USPS is also closing processing plants in Lynchburg and Roanoke. Mail from those facilities will be transferred to Greensboro, North Carolina.

"Consolidating operations is necessary if the Postal Service is to remain viable to provide mail service to the nation," said the agency's Chief Operating Officer Megan Brennan.

The president of the American Postal Workers Union in Hampton Roads predicts it will take 3 to 4 days for a letter mailed in Norfolk to get to Virginia Beach. Sandston will hire more people to help with the increased work load- but job opportunities will first be given to the employees of the Norfolk plant.

No specific date has been set for these changes to occur.

Here is a statement from Michele Martel. She's a spokesperson for the Sandston Plant.

"There will be a need for additional staff at the Sandston Plant as we add machinery from Norfolk but we have no idea how many just yet. And it is presumed those opportunities will be offered first to employees from the Norfolk Plant. As we have said in the past, we have never had to resort to lay-offs and we want that to continue if at all possible. Some employees may elect to retire, relocate, or change crafts. For example, we do have carrier positions open and some employees who have been at the plant on Tour 1 may view the opportunity to change to a carrier job with Sundays and holidays off and daytime hours as a real benefit to their families. As far as outside hiring is concerned, that is less likely, but, as I said, still unknown at this point."

"Not all of the operations currently in Norfolk will move to Sandston: some will move from an Annex in Norfolk, however, into the Church Street facility, so, in that sense, they will be 'consolidated,' too. We just can't provide any employee numbers at this time since we don't have them yet. In addition, any actual movement will not occur before the May 15th moratorium to which we agreed with Congress. And we won't move anything during fall mailing season or the holiday season. It is therefore likely that no movement will occur until 2013."

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