The U.S. Postal Service says you should ignore signs placed on Tri-City collection boxes this week alerting customers to drop mail off three hours earlier if you want it shipped that day.
The paper signs were stuck this week to the blue mailboxes outside the post offices in Richland, Kennewick and Pasco. They said the new pickup times would take effect June 28 or 29 because of “operational changes.”
But after calls Wednesday and Thursday from the Herald, post office spokesman Ernie Swanson said the notices were posted by mistake and would be taken down starting Thursday evening.
“The collection times recently posted in the Tri-Cities are inaccurate and shouldn’t have been posted,” Swanson told the Herald. “We’re still evaluating pickup times, which are based on our operating windows and transportation needs.”
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The Pasco mail handling center on West Court Street is one of three in Eastern Washington being consolidated into the Spokane facility as part of nationwide budget cuts. The Pasco facility is to close sooner than those in Wenatchee and Yakima.
Postal union officials said that means mail must be collected earlier to be shipped to Spokane, and that jobs will be cut and some employees moved.
On Thursday, workers at the Pasco mail handling center received official notices that they could be moved to positions in another city, said John Michael Wald, local American Postal Workers Union president.
While union contracts prevent career employees from being laid off, they could be moved up to 50 miles from Pasco, he said.Among those who could be affected are eight clerks, eight electrical technicians, two maintenance mechanics and three to four custodians, Wald said. Another 12 noncareer employees also could be laid off.
As a result, Wald said customers can expect earlier collection times at post offices across the Mid-Columbia.
The signs posted this week said starting June 29, the new collection time for the Richland post office would be 1:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Kennewick’s pickup time would be 2:15 p.m. and the post office on West Court Street in Pasco posted a 2:30 collection time.
Currently, weekday pickup times are between 5:15 and 5:45 p.m. at those post offices.
Wald said the signs mean that if you don’t get mail in by the posted time, it will sit at the post office until the next day, when it will be shipped to Spokane.
But Swanson said Thursday that when the changes are made he still expects there to be 5 p.m. pickup available in the Tri-Cities. But no other details were available Thursday.
Wald questioned the accuracy of Swanson’s statement, saying he had discussed the pickup times with Pasco Postmaster Dana Alderson numerous times.
“She did say the times could change, but at this point, that’s what the notice is,” he said, accusing the postal service of “misdirection and confusion.”
Calls to Alderson were referred to Swanson.
Wald said changes in Tri-City mail handling could be noticed earlier than June 28, because some sorting machines will be moved from Pasco to Spokane before that date.
“Most of the customers are not going to realize the impact until it’s too late,” he said.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom