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Peoria's postal facility could be redesignated as part of a national USPS plan

The USPS facility in Peoria could face a designation change as part of a wide ranging facility review in the USPS' ten-year Delivering for America plan.
Collin Schopp
The USPS facility in Peoria could face a designation change as part of a wide-ranging facility review in the USPS' 10-year Delivering for America plan.

The United States Postal Service is taking a hard look at the function of locations across America, including Peoria’s Processing and Distribution Center.

The process, called a “Mail Processing Facility Review” is part of a 10-year, $40 million transformation plan. Strategic Communications Director for USPS Illinois Tim Norman said the process means a “modernization” of the way the Postal Service operates.

“These initiatives, they’re not only great for the post office,” Norman said. “”They’re great for the communities that these are going to be deployed in. It’s also great for our employees. And it’s also very good, it’s a great thing for the American public, because changes have needed to be made for several years.”

Norman said the review in Peoria will look at the State Street plant and consider factors like transportation, location and logistics. At the end of the process, there will be a recommendation to make the Peoria location a Local Processing Center, or LPC, a Sorting and Delivery Center, or S&DC, or both. Peoria currently has a Regional Processing and Distribution Center, or RPDC.

In short, these terms describe what happens at any given post office location. RPDCs sort the mail and packages sent in a region for delivery, as well as sorting those going out of a region. The new S&DCs gather mail and packages over a large geographical area to sort and deliver. LPCs are the connection between these two facility types, sending a majority of mail and packages to one of the other locations to be sorted and delivered. LPCs also sort some mail for local mail carrier routes.

You can find an explanation of the different facility types on the USPS website.

According to a news release from Feb. 6, 2024, “initial results of the facility review support the business case for keeping the Peoria facility open and modernizing the facility as a Local Processing Center [LPC].”

“This is a good thing,” Norman said. “Because…it’s going to be an upgraded facility with a lot of, you know, renovations and things like that.”

Some of the renovations Norman describes include lighting upgrades, new equipment and improving the conditions of docks.

However, USPS employees like Harold Toft are skeptical. Toft is a 40-year employee of the Postal Service and president of the American Postal Workers Union Heart of Illinois Area Local 854.

“My thought on this is that it will delay the mail,” Toft said. “They want to move local mail out of Peoria, up to South Suburban.”

Toft is referencing a measure described in the same news release, reading “the business case supports transferring some mail processing operations to the South Suburban P&DC in Bedford Park, IL.”

Toft said he’s worried this will lead to delayed delivery of local mail in the Peoria area, due to shipping some by road up to suburban Chicago, before returning to Peoria for delivery.

In an email, Norman confirms: “Some of the mail that is mailed in Peoria would leave Peoria and be processed and returned to Peoria for delivery within the current USPS standards already in place. Customers should not see any change in their service.”

Toft doesn’t see how this can be the case. He estimates six to eight hours of drive time to Bedford Park and back, without factoring in the time to process the mail at the other center. Bad weather, he worries, could extend that to days.

“Anyone can figure that out,” Toft said. “Easily, a fifth grader could go, ‘Yeah, that’s going to take forever.’”

Toft also is worried about what the changes could mean for the future of postal service employees. Norman said career employees will not see any layoffs as the result of the changes, but Toft said he isn’t worried about layoffs — they’re already impossible due to the workers’ contracts. He’s anticipating transfers to jobs in other locations or roles.

“They could be put into another craft,” Toft said. “Say, right now they’re 50-some years old, because the majority of the Postal Service is older, they could have to become a carrier. If you’re 50-some years old, going out walking the streets and the snow and all the steps a carrier does, that will be pretty hard on you.”

Norman said, ultimately, the new facility designations and upgrades save anywhere between $900,000 and $1.3 million a year in the early stages of the plan, adding the plan means doing things faster and more efficiently with newer equipment.

“This goes for the future of the Postal Service in the next 10 years,” Norman said. “Not just this 10 year plan that we have right now, but further on down the line and in the future.”

Toft has a very different assessment of the plan, believing it’s an existential threat to the Postal Service itself and paving the way to the privatization of the service.

“This is what a private company would do is consolidate all its processing centers, and so forth,” Toft said. “And I think that’s what they’re preparing to do.”

There is a public input session scheduled for the plan at noon on Feb. 21 at the Peoria Public Library’s main branch. Representatives of USPS will present the initial study results and take comments from the community. You also can find a survey here.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.