Thursday, January 14, 2010

14 JAN 10: Post Haste

First the birthday gift card from my older brother disappeared in the mail. Now I'm wondering where the January bill from Columbus Water Works has gone. It should have arrived by now - although if one of my neighbors decided to do a watery act of kindness, I'll accept it.

The U.S. Postal Service was the center of attention at the Columbus Public Library Wednesday night. A public hearing was held on a proposal to move mail processing from Columbus to Macon. The main Columbus post office would stay open - but there wouldn't any more noisy late-night parties to annoy the neighbors.

Terrence Hall with the Postal Service told WTVM a consolidation of mail processing in Macon would save about $975,000 per year. The Postal Service needs to save every penny it can, because revenues have dropped in the e-mail age. If it wasn't for those fast food coupons landing in my mailbox, the post office might be broke.

Terrence Hall added only eight jobs would be affected by the "mail merge," and those workers probably would be moved instead of laid off. Hall was sensitive enough to avoid saying the jobs were heading for the "dead letter office."

I didn't go to Wednesday night's public hearing, because I assumed the Columbus TV stations would cover it for me. It turns out none of them did. But at least they weren't following the Postal Service's lead, and reporting news from Macon.

Thanks to the Ledger-Enquirer, I learned about 100 people attended the public hearing - and City Manager Isaiah Hugley led the calls for Columbus to keep mail processing. Hugley expects base realignment at Fort Benning will increase the "mail volume" in Columbus. New Army personnel certainly will increase the male volume....

The proposed consolidation had open skeptics, even before the public hearing. We received an e-mail alert Wednesday from Jeremy Hobbs of the Better Way Foundation, who claimed the move to Macon would make Columbus mail arrive one day later. If I didn't know better, I'd almost think Hobbs was the one running for mayor.

Postal Service officials disputed Jeremy Hobbs's claim. They say mail delivery times will NOT be affected by the consolidation, because it could be trucked to Macon and back in the same evening. Well, as long as the Talbot County Sheriff doesn't set up speed traps along U.S. 80....

Then there was the claim on Richard Hyatt's web site that politics is behind the consolidation. He suggested last week the move to Macon is designed to benefit Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall. So why didn't the "rails to trails" bike path with federal stimulus money get moved away from Lynn Westmoreland's side of Columbus?

If I had attended the public hearing, I would have asked how much mail is sent in Columbus and Macon each day. The Postal Service web site doesn't seem to have those statistics. But if Macon handles more mail already, a consolidation there could make sense. Yes, people in Macon could make the postmaster more bacon.

It seems to me one big issue in this proposed consolidation is a matter of pride and ego - whether Columbus mail will have a Columbus postmark. Postal Service officials assured the audience it would be available on request. But let's face it - no one's ever said the mail flow in Columbus jumps around October 12.

(Large amounts of mail could receive Columbus postmarks, but businesses would need to make an appointment with the Postal Service to get them. If that really mattered, local car dealers wouldn't be sending their mail promotions from Atlanta or Houston.)

There's another aspect that critics of the mail merge may have overlooked. Phenix City's mail apparently isn't processed in Columbus, right across the river. I get letters from Russell County with Montgomery postmarks - unless that man complaining about Phenix City officials is making 160-mile round trips to disguise his identity.

But at least the Postal Service took the trouble to have a public hearing on this idea, so everyone could ask questions and have their say. It once again shows postal workers try to handle issues in a first-class manner.

Now let's ship out some other thoughts about the Wednesday news:

+ The high temperature in Columbus finally climbed back above 50 degrees, reaching 51 F. WTVM reported the start of this year was the coldest 12-day span in recorded Columbus history. It was SO COLD that Congressional leaders would have felt right at home having sessions here.

+ A natural gas leak near University Avenue caused an evacuation of several Columbus city blocks for more than eight hours. Even parts of the Columbus State University campus had to be closed. If this leak had occurred near Columbus Technical College, it would have been an extra-credit assignment.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer revealed Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren never was asked for an opinion about raising the speed limit on Interstate 185. Columbus Council approved the idea Tuesday without consulting him - so Councilors were caught speeding, even before the proposal reached Atlanta.

(TV reports indicated Mayor Jim Wetherington will approve the resolution to raise the speed limit to 65 miles per hour. The "law and order" mayor is turning into a lame-duck softie.)

+ State Senator Seth Harp proposed a Georgia voter referendum on whether to "opt out" of federal health care reform. Harp is running for Georgia Insurance Commissioner - and he's already trying to make his next job as simple as possible.

(Silly me - when I read Seth Harp had a health care proposal, I thought he was trying to get local-option Sunday liquor sales approved again.)

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) found Mississippi's men escaping Georgia 80-76. A key play in the final minute was a basket by Mississippi's Eniel Polynice, who threw an inbounds pass off a Georgia player and back to himself. Maybe the Southeastern Conference should learn from this, and start varsity dodge-ball teams.

+ Instant Message to Atlanta Hawks radio announcer Steve Holman: You're asking for it. I mean, you could be suspended like some players on the Washington team you watched Wednesday night. You simply can't say Josh Smith "almost got.... murdered" under the basket anymore.

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