The United States Postal Service on April 18 moved most of western Wyoming’s mail sorting activities from Rock Springs to Salt Lake City, but USPS representatives say most people won’t notice the difference.
Critics of the change say mail users will definitely experience delivery delays, especially once the weather closes roads this winter.
But most workers at area businesses contacted for this story said they haven’t experienced problems with mail delivery outside of the normal challenges associated with mountain living.
The biggest difference most people will notice is that “the postmark will be in Salt Lake City instead of Rock Springs,” said David Rupert, USPS’s western area spokesman, who is stationed in Denver.
“For all the mail going outside the area, you won’t see any change at all,” he said.
People who have been sending mail within western Wyoming may have noticed as early as January that first-class mail takes two days instead of one, Rupert said. But that is a result of a nationwide change in delivery standards, he said, and is not directly related to the sorting facility consolidation at Rock Springs.
First-class mail to either coast still takes three days from Jackson, he said.
“There’s not much there for people to be concerned about,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Jackson post office would not comment for this story, referring queries to Rupert.
The consolidation means that mail leaving Jackson Hole is now sorted in Salt Lake City instead of Rock Springs. Even mail sent from one end of town to the other will be routed through Salt Lake, just as it used to go through Rock Springs, Rupert said.
Most inbound mail will still be sorted in Rock Springs, Rupert said, especially letters.
Rupert said the advantages Salt Lake City offers over Rock Springs include capacity.
“They have the high-speed machines,” he said, “and they have the personnel. It’s an efficiency thing.”
The vastly higher volumes of mail handled in Salt Lake City means that the sorting facility there enjoys economies of scale that outweigh the additional costs imposed by the longer travel distances, Rupert said.
Critics say that hasn’t been proven, though.
“They’re lowering the service for all our customers without having proven it’s going to save one dime,” said Postal Service technician Scott Neumann, who works at the Rock Springs facility. “It’s damaging our company, it’s damaging our product, and it’s damaging our viability as a service.”
Neumann said Postal Service bureaucrats didn’t accurately compare the difference between the Rock Springs and Salt Lake City sorting facilities, and said the switch will cause delays without saving money.
Western Wyoming, now lacking its own dedicated mail sorting facility, will compare poorly with even such far-flung locales as Guam, Neumann said.
“Guam has its own mail processing [facility],” Neumann said, “so Guam is going to have better mail service than western Wyoming.”
Highway 191 stretched along what Neumann called an island of weather that’s less hostile than surrounding areas. Service from Rock Springs to Jackson was interrupted by road closures far less frequently than it will be in the future, he said, when drivers will have to route mail through Idaho before heading north up Highway 89.
Studies showing that Salt Lake City offers cost savings over Rock Springs were “a fraud,” Neumann said, and he and several other Postal Service workers have filed a grievance with the agency for alleged misconduct in conducting its studies.
Still, many in Jackson’s business community say they haven’t noticed a difference.
“In the legal system we do things by fax and we do things by mail,” Jackson attorney Dick Stout said. Despite his reliance on the Postal Service, Stout said, he hasn’t noticed the switch.
The same has been true at the county clerk’s office, said Chief Deputy Clerk Melissa Shinkle.
“We get lots of mail, and we send lots of mail,” she said. “We always have problems with the mail here, because it sometimes doesn’t get to us, or [to] where we’re sending it.”
That hasn’t changed for better or for worse, Shinkle said.
John Slaughter, floor manager at Teton Mountaineering, had a similar story to tell.
“I kind of always think of our mail as slow, so I don’t expect it to get here on time because we’re at the end of the road effectively,” he said.
Since mid-April, when sorting was moved from Rock Springs to Salt Lake City, Slaughter said he hasn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary.
At least one person has noticed the change, and she said it’s a significant one.
“I have been going to the post office first thing in the morning and at the end of the day now for 15 years,” Casey Grimes, an office assistant at Spence Law Firm, said. “I’ve definitely noticed a difference.”
Delays were never unheard of, but they have become more common, she said.
“Before, it wouldn’t happen at this time of year,” she said. “It would happen in the winter.”
In particular, mail delivery has become more sporadic in recent weeks, Grimes said. Inbound mail, instead of coming in regularly throughout the week, now tends to come in one large shipment on Mondays and to taper off as the week progresses.
Often, when she arrives in the morning to pick up mail, Grimes said, “the girls there will say, ‘We haven’t got the truck in because they’re coming from Salt Lake instead of Rock Springs.’”