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Despite national pause, Oregon is stuck with USPS changes that locals say hurt small businesses

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden speaking in front of the Medford City Hall, Tuesday, May 28
Roman Battaglia
JPR News
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden speaking in front of the Medford City Hall, Tuesday, May 28

Despite a pause in a national plan to consolidate postal services, the effects have already taken root in Oregon. State and local lawmakers are calling for changes to post office operations in Southern Oregon.

On Tuesday, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and Medford Mayor Randy Sparacino called on the U.S. Postal Service to reverse changes in the state that now means all outgoing mail is first sent to Portland for processing.

Wyden said one of the biggest issues in Southern Oregon is the rising costs, like rent and groceries, both for residents and businesses.

"These inefficiencies in the mail system are jacking up costs for our businesses, and particularly hard hit are small businesses," Wyden said.

In a letter to the senate last week, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said that at least 20 facilities nationwide will not be included in his pause on consolidation efforts, including Oregon. There are no plans to reverse those changes.

These changes have slowed delivery of mail, including ballots during the recent primary election, according to local postal workers, .

“Postal management chose to disregard the instructions of the Secretary of State by loading ballots into private vehicles and dropping them in county election boxes after hours," said Jeremy Schilling, president of the local postal workers union.

According to the secretary of state's office, that issue was fixed after a meeting with USPS officials.

Schilling said they've found one example of a ballot destined for the Klamath County Clerk's office that was postmarked in Portland on election day, but didn't arrive to the Medford processing plan until May 28. Schilling said since it arrived after the mail was already dispatched for Klamath Falls, that ballot won't arrive to the county clerks office before the seven day deadline, and won't be counted.

Medford Mayor Randy Sparacino said the promise by the USPS of limited impact on residents has been broken, and the changes need to be reversed to avoid damaging local businesses even more.

"I have heard numerous concerns and examples from our constituents across our community of the issues that have occurred since the Postal Service has readjusted their delivery system," he said.

Sparacino pointed to a local builder as an example. He said the builder mailed a bill across town, but a letter sent across the country arrived faster.

Wyden wants to see the postal service hold better public input sessions about these changes.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.