Move to NWA Begins for Fort Smith’s Mail Processing Center

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The move of the U.S. Postal Service’s mail processing operation from Fort Smith to Fayetteville begins this weekend.

 Postal Service spokesperson Leisa Tolliver-Gay said the first to move will be the automated letter processing equipment. The entire moving process should be complete by Feb. 16, she said. The processing center is located on South 74th Street.

Tolliver-Gay said the postal service expects to save $1.2 billion by consolidating processing centers across the country.

“I can understand them wanting to do that for their business, but I don't think it'll be good for customers in this area,” said Justin Collins, a customer.

Customers have mixed emotions about the move.

“I get my mail every other day anyway, so it's not that inconvenient for me,” said Donovan Willis, a customer.

All 36 affected employees will have a chance to bid for new jobs with the postal service as their positions are eliminated, Tolliver-Gay said.

Thomas Henry, with the Western Arkansas Area Local of American Postal Workers Union, said that none of the employees can be laid off because their contracts will not allow it. Some of the workers are already driving from to Fayetteville for work. Henry said those works are paid mileage. Other workers are expected to be reassigned to postal service jobs within a 50 mile radius, according to Henry.

Henry said currently, all mail, except large envelopes and packages, are being processed in Fayetteville.

Henry believes it will take longer for people to get their mail.

“This closing down Fort Smith is not saving money possibly and if it is it's going to be a very small amount. I believe the service is going to degrade tremendously,” said Henry.

Tolliver-Gay told 5NEWS customers should not notice a difference in their mail.

“We expect it to be seamless for our customers,” she said. “It's just a simple move of processing from one location to the other.”

Henry expects the Fort Smith operation to officially close on Feb. 22.

The postal service approved moving the processing facility from Fort Smith to Fayetteville about a year ago.