Editorial Roundup: South Dakota

Yankton Press & Dakotan. March 11, 2024.

Editorial: USPS Facility Proposal Is Cause For Concern

A proposal by the United States Postal Service (USPS) that would downgrade the processing and distribution centers at both Sioux Falls and Huron could generate serious consequences that demand closer consideration.

Under the proposal, the eastern South Dakota mail distribution duties would be shifted to Omaha, Nebraska, and Fargo, North Dakota. It would also mean that there would not be a distribution center anywhere in South Dakota.

Of the aforementioned flaws, perhaps the most conspicuous is the fact that this proposed move — and it may be a little past the “proposed” stage — has barely received any notice. The Press & Dakotan did a story on the situation Saturday after receiving a tip on the matter just two days before. Some local pharmacists contacted by the P&D Friday either hadn’t heard of the proposal or recalled seeing some rumblings about it a while ago.

There is a public hearing scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday in Sioux Falls on the matter — but much of the public appears unaware of it.

That’s unfortunate because the decision could have broad implications.

Moving the area distribution center from Sioux Falls to Omaha will likely mean slower postal delivery times for people in the region (which would also include parts of southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa and northeast Nebraska).

This could be a particularly serious problem for people who receive prescription medicines by mail.

“When we send prescriptions out in the mail, making sure it gets to the patient on time is very important,” Byron Olson, owner of Roger’s Pharmacy, told the Press & Dakotan. “This will most certainly cause delays. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it just adds one more thing.”

It will impact other areas, too, especially for businesses of all kinds that rely on the postal service for their operations.

“There are all sorts of time-sensitive items in the mail stream,” said Dave Bordewyk, executive director of the South Dakota NewsMedia Association. “To me, this looks like it’s not going to be a good thing.”

For full disclosure, this could impact newspapers, too, although many of those mail deliveries are done directly at the local annex and might not be affected.

However, the process of sending out bills and receiving payments could take longer, thus impacting timely cash flow. And that could happen to many businesses.

This isn’t the only region impacted. The Press & Dakotan story noted that Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, recently sent a letter to U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy expressing her concerns over the proposed downgrading of the processing facility at North Platte, which covers most of western Nebraska, and moving those duties to Denver.

“Americans rely on USPS to stay connected, and access to this vital service cannot be in doubt,” Fisher’s letter said. “While I appreciate the desire of USPS to modernize operations and address its fiscal stability, this must not come at the expense of our communities’ access to timely mail services.”

The move could also do harm to the USPS itself, said Todd West, president of the American Postal Workers Association Local No. 144, in a letter to Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota.

“At a time when the USPS is increasing rates but giving less service, it will continue to degrade the USPS, and when the service is degraded, the USPS will not be used,” West wrote. “(That) will lead to the privatization of the USPS, which will not be good for the U.S. citizens and your constituents.”

As of this writing, it’s unclear if this proposal can be reversed. The public meeting would suggest that there is still room for change, but the lack of publicity is concerning, even damning, in regard to the process.

This proposal would hurt a lot of people and businesses in this region. It needs to be reevaluated.