By Jessica Eisenbrey
NEW CASTLE — More than 900 people attended a meeting Thursday held by the United States Postal Service on the possible closure of the Hares Corner processional facility in New Castle.
With mail volume decreasing as more activities take place online, the USPS is considering closing the Hares Corner facility and moving its operations to Bellmawr, N.J. — about 35 miles away — in order to save money. The Hares Corner facility currently employs about 468 workers. Dave Robinson, Hares Corner plant manager, said about 101 would be kept in Delaware to run other postal service operations. An additional 173 would be sent to work at the Bellmawr facility.
This means 194 postal workers out of the Hares Corner facility would have to move to other post offices or processing facilities for a position. “Those people would look for other positions within the postal service,” Mr. Robinson said.
Whatever the number of direct jobs lost by the closing of the facility, Rep. John Carney, D-Del., said the amount of jobs lost by the state because of the lack of a mail processing facility could number in the thousands.
“If we don’t have a Hares Corner facility to sell, we can’t attract those jobs to our state,” he said. “It’s not just the jobs in here ... it’s frankly hundreds more and maybe even thousands more today and long into the future.
This isn’t just about us.
It’s about the future of our state and the future of our economy.”
Delaware Economic Development Director Alan Levin spoke on behalf of the postal workers, reassuring those attending that he and Gov. Jack Markell intend to fi ght to keep the facility open.
“We won’t rest until this decision is turned over the other way,” he said.
Rep. Melanie George Smith, D-Newark, voiced her support for the postal workers in attendance.
“We’re here as a legislative body to say we support you,” she said. “We appreciate your sacrifices.”
Before the meeting, Rep. Smith said she doesn’t understand why the USPS would close the Hares Corner facility, which is ranked 50 out of 300 facilities, equivalent to the top 17 percent.
“Why, from a business perspective, you would close one of your best performing processing facilities, makes no sense to me,” she said. “I don’t want my taxpayer dollars being wasted like that.”
Because Delaware only has one mail processing facility, Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., said he doesn’t think the USPS’s decision to close the Hares Corner facility is fair.
“In all this consolidation two states would end up with no processing centers. One is Vermont and the other is Delaware,” Sen. Carper said. “There’s an equity question here — is that fair?”
Instead of closing the facility, Sen. Carper suggested the USPS consider re-routing mail from Maryland and Pennsylvania to Hares Corner.
The Postal Service is already considering closing its Easton, Md., and Cecil County, Md., facilities and redirecting that mail to Baltimore.
“We have another idea,” Sen. Carper said. “Instead of sending the mail from the Eastern Shore to go across the Bay Bridge, how about sending it to New Castle, Delaware?”
The crowd cheered loudly after this suggestion by the senator.
Jamie Brown, of Conowingo, Md., works at the Hares Corner processing facility and said she’s experienced the effects of consolidation within the USPS since operations from a Frederick, Md., processing facility were transferred to Baltimore.
“I know the effects of consolidation,” she said. “My mail has been chaotic.”
In considering which facilities to close, the USPS turned directly to smaller facilities, like Delaware’s, and not to larger ones, Sen. Carper argued.
“I might be wrong in this, but the Postal Service, in making the recommendations, has considered keeping big processing facilities open,” Sen. Carper added. “As far as I know, none of the options included keeping Hares Corner open. I just ask that you not keep us at that kind of arms length.”
Along with the USPS not considering re-routing mail from other facilities to Delaware, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said the amount of information provided by the agency has been limited and inconclusive.
“Before I can sleep at night asking anyone to schlep 35 miles up the highway to keep your job, I’d rather see some math,” he said. “If we’re going to have to make some tough decisions, I’m fine with doing that, but I have to understand what it’s based on.”