Saturday, August 28, 1999

Post office hub staying in city


Facility would be built at site of Lewis Center

BY DAN KLEPAL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The city and the U.S. Postal Service are close to working out a deal that would keep the postal service's processing hub, and the 2,200 jobs that go with it, in Cincinnati.

        All that is left to be worked out is a time line that meets everyone's needs.

        The solution has been more than a year in the making. The proposed plan would keep the hub within the city limits, at the Pauline Warfield Lewis Center in Roselawn.

        The site is owned by the Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH).

        ODMH is going to consolidate its operations on the northern fringe of the 100-acre site. That leaves space for a new, one-story building for the Postal Service.

        A plan would have the city buy 70 acres at the site and have the Postal Service build an 800,000-square-foot facility.

        The hub now is a 24-hour operation on Dalton Avenue in Queensgate, handling 5.1 billion pieces of mail from five ZIP codes within the city limits.

        Sam Hibbs, ODMH spokesman, said three buildings totaling 400,000 square feet will have to be demolished before the post office can begin construction. That could take up to four years, Mr. Hibbs said.

        “We're working closely with the city and the post office to see if it's possible to work this out,” Mr. Hibbs said. “We understand it would be advantageous for the city, but there's still some work yet to do in terms of the feasibility of the time line.”

        Bonni Manies, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service, said the agency needs a one-story building to be more efficient in processing mail.

        “Mail spends time going up and down elevators now instead of going straight through a facility,” Ms. Manies said of the current building, which was built in 1936. “All of that wastes time and is a bad use of resources.”

        Ms. Manies said the Postal Service has made a commitment to keep the hub within the city limits. But, she said, it needs to move forward with the new facility as soon as possible.

        “We will be much more efficient with a one-story facility,” Ms. Manies said. “So the sooner the better.”

        Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who has been working on this deal for more than a year, said she's confident it will get done.

        “I'm sure when the state of Ohio recognizes that retaining a minimum of 1,500 jobs is important to the city, the problems with the time line will work out,” she said.

       



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