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USPS OIG – Mail Conditions at South Houston Local Processing Center

April 11, 2024
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READ FULL ARTICLE AT » Office of Inspector General OIG

Our objective for this alert was to determine facility opening procedures and mail conditions at the South Houston Local Processing Center.

Each year, increased mail volume during the Postal Service’s peak mailing season — Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve1 — significantly strains the Postal Service’s processing and distribution network. The Postal Service opens peak season annexes to temporarily help with increased package volume at select processing facilities. As part of our peak season audit, we assessed the Postal Service’s acquisition and use of these peak season annexes. One such annex we identified was the South Houston Local Processing Center (LPC), which opened on November 18, 2023, and was associated with the North Houston Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC).

Although the South Houston LPC was opened as a peak season annex with temporary, peak season staff, management employed an undocumented contingency plan and decided to keep the facility open beyond peak season. On January 2, 2024, the facility stopped processing packages bound for the immediate area and began processing packages coming from the local area to the rest of the nation. Currently, the South Houston LPC is operating as an interim processing facility, but later this year it is expected to shift operations to a traditional LPC processing letters and flats.

Opening LPCs is part of the Postal Service’s 10-year strategic Delivering for America plan. According to the Postal Service’s Delivering for America Second-Year Progress Report, 4 which is its public reporting on the 10-year plan, LPCs are designed to connect Regional Processing and Distribution Centers (RPDCs) to delivery operations. LPCs have the primary mission of sorting letter and flat mail to carrier route or delivery walk sequence and serving as a transfer center to aggregate mail on its way to delivery units. RPDCs are multi-purpose distribution centers with common designs, layouts, and processing equipment. In the Houston region, the North Houston P&DC will become the RPDC, and the South Houston LPC will be a supporting facility processing some Houston mail.

The Postal Service is redesigning its processing network with the goal of creating a best-in-class mail and package processing network. The Postal Service has plans to invest $40 billion to create a modernized network based around RPDCs, LPCs, and sorting and distribution centers (S&DCs).

We conducted an unannounced site visit at the South Houston LPC during the week of January 28, 2024. We found the mail conditions and postal operations in the facility necessitated alerting Postal Service management. Although we briefed multiple levels of management immediately, this report memorializes what we witnessed at the facility and information we gathered through subsequent interviews with management responsible for operations at South Houston LPC.

Findings Summary

During our site visit from January 28 to 30, 2024, we identified deficiencies that affected the efficiency of operations at the South Houston LPC. Specifically, we found delayed mail awaiting processing; delayed mail awaiting dispatch; facility conditions with safety, security, and maintenance concerns; and a lack of communication with stakeholders.

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