U.S. Rep. Bill Flores

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores called on President Donald Trump's children to leave their positions at the White House.

Some mail service resumed in ZIP codes that begin with 778 Thursday, but U.S. Rep. Bill Flores of Bryan says that the inconvenience to businesses and residents should have been rerouted in the first place.

Aside from calls from constituents looking for ways to help the Harvey-ravaged coast, Flores said his office has received many calls from Brazos Valley residents upset that post offices closed.

Flores says he doesn't blame these constituents. The postal service, he says, should have better prepared for Hurricane Harvey and kept its promise to use Bryan as a backup processing center when it moved the service to Houston a few years ago.

USPS began sending all mail to a processing plant in north Houston in 2011 and shut down the Bryan processing center in 2012, citing potential savings of $4 million each year by outsourcing processing.

Flores said, at the time, his office was concerned about the hit Brazos Valley residents and businesses would take if something happened to the Houston plant.

Flores said the USPS assured his office that mail would be routed to Bryan for processing in the event that the Houston processing center was shut down.

"It's almost like the Postal Service had no backup plan in the event that it lost one of the large regional processing centers," Flores said. "There are all kinds of things that could have been done. They could have moved it to Bryan. They could have distributed that mail out to other processing centers. Instead, what happened is local postal services hung signs saying, 'We're closed.'"

Local Bryan management said that post offices are now sending and receiving mail from the north Houston processing center, but referred The Eagle to USPS communications representative Twana Barber.

Barber said she was unable to tell if Bryan was intended to be a backup processing center in the event of a disaster or if the Bryan post office has the capacity to serve as a processing center.

She adds that the post office did have an emergency plan in place for rerouting mail during Harvey, and that post offices -- like those in the 778 zip code areas -- were shut down at the sign of hazardous weather conditions.

"If [an area] is affected, we have to be proactive and make sure the employees and the customers are safe -- we don't want anyone to be unsafe. We care about their well being," she said. "And in implementing that, Houston was so massive in terms of what was hit that we had to figure out what was the best way and the safest way to effectively and quickly process the customers' mail."

Barber said alternative processing centers were immediately set up after Hurricane Harvey. She said roadway conditions were among the considerations involved in designating processing centers.

"I don't think the people there knew this place was going to be hit so hard," she said. "So I can't say why this one wasn't used over the other, but I'm sure when they made the decision all of those factors were taken into consideration."

Flores said the USPS has not given his office a clear answer on why mail had to shut down in the area. He said mail service is critical for many the region, from residents who depend on Social Security checks to businesses that need to send paychecks to employees.

"We've raised the issue with the post office, we couldn't get anyone locally to call us -- none of the postmasters would call us back," Flores said. "So we raised it with the postal service in DC, they have got us some bureaucratic, but largely ineffective, responses to our questions."

The Bank & Trust in Bryan is among the businesses and residents affected by the lack of mail service.

"I'm 62 years old, and I've never seen anything like this. It's a disaster that hopefully comes around once in a lifetime," said Mike Holmgren, vice chairman for the company, adding that TB&T -- like other companies in the area -- do not plan to use the disaster as a means of making money off.

He said his company will not penalize customers who are unable to make payments due to the post office's closure.

"The bank -- and I think all of the banks -- recognize the magnitude of the problems down in Houston and hopefully they will have it fixed in the next couple of days, in the meantime I think we'll just all use common sense," he said.

Utility bills ready to be sent to residents have also been piling up according to city officials in Bryan and College Station.

When it comes to utilities in Bryan, roughly 20-25 percent of customers pay by check, through the vast majority receive their bill by mail, says Vicki Reim, division manager of customer operations for Bryan Utilities Company.

Reim urges customers to pay by another method if they can, but said they are working on some system for ensuring that customers aren't penalized for the post office being closed.

"We will be saving some late fees depending on timing, when mailing resumes, and when we get things back, we'll work with customers," she said.

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(13) comments

Alex Pacek

The local USPS out of Harvey Mitchell Parkway ran carrier routes and not only delivered mail on Sunday the 3rd to our home and business, they also ran yesterday Monday the 4th (Labor Day) and delivered even more mail, AND picked up packages at our business. On Sunday and Labor Day. Talk about going way above and beyond the call of duty. Great job Postmaster Rowland and staff!

ftw

How ironic that Bill Flores is complaining that the Postal Service should have been better prepared. And how exactly were they supposed to implement a plan to be better prepared? Where is his sympathy and compassion for the people who lost everything, and in some cases their lives?

Bill Flores has been part of the group cutting the budget of the postal service for years. Without a adequate budget, no plan will be effective. And that puts the responsibility right back on those who provide the funding, the Senate and Legislature.

Troyce Wilson

I find the Postal Service is usually superior to private delivery companies when it comes to getting the mail through during adverse conditions. The problem they have is caused by Bill Flores' party. The Republicans have been working for years to decimate their budget in an attempt to make them fail. They want the Postal Service to fail so they can turn their business over to private industry, to the benefit of wealthy corporations and the detriment of the people who use postal mail. That's why the distribution center was removed from Bryan to Houston. We have a party that wants to actively destroy every government service so they can use it as an excuse to hand it all over to private industry. So if you're not happy with the current services by the post office, tell Bill Flores to make sure they get properly funded!

CSLIFER72

So Mr. Flores, just how does USPS have an alternate plan, build a dam around the distribution center and a high rise highway to all areas out of Houston? No one forecast the record rainfall nor the record flooding. Typical middle of the road legislator, all the answers after the damage is done.

rj

The whining on this thread is disgusting. People have lost everything and you folks are crying about a week's delays. I swear - y'all make me ashamed to share a city with you. If you don't have a backup plan for essential items, then you are less prepared for a disaster than you claim the postal service is. Be responsible for yourselves!
As for the always mendacious Flores, he and his "conservative" buddies have done everything in their power to destroy the postal service. They cut funding and forced the service to fully fund its pension -- which no other entity has ever done. Republicans hate the postal service and will continue to hurt it because they can't let any part of government be seen to work. Flores is as useless and as counterfeit as a three-dollar bill.

Alex Pacek

Oh Really Sep 1, 2017 10:03am - If you purchased insurance and your package was delayed for a non weather reason you can file an insurance claim. If you shipped something perishable with no insurance you will not get a refund nor do you deserve one.

Alex Pacek

The Bryan Distribution (sorting) center can not be reopened. They sold all of the machines to an overseas postal service last year. There are no machines there.

EatsPaste

(And Postal Uniforms, hopefully it's clear that only the part of my statement about postal carriers not being to blame for this was directed at you! )

EatsPaste

Yes, but Postal Uniforms, no one's problem is with the postal carriers themselves.
They didn't decide to shut down for a week with no plans and no particular rush to make one. It's not their fault.
But seriously, as for the folks above them, what DID they think was going to happen when Houston gets hit? It's not as though it has only happened twice in history that a major weather event shut down the Gulf Coast. It's not the last time either.

What do you mean, USPS, that you 'don't know if' Bryan has the capacity to be a fallback processing center??? It does or it doesn't. But logic dictates if it was one recently then it probably still could be or could be remade easily. That entire statement is some of the richest horsepile I have heard in awhile.
What are people supposed to do without their critical medication for weeks? I have a package that arrived in DALLAS Friday morning and it's still sitting there. By my reckoning, Dallas is even further than we are from the damage; am I mixing up my directions? There shouldn't have been any reason for it not to be able to reroute from Dallas to Bryan instead of Dallas to Houston to Bryan. Good thing I wasn't shipping a live animal or a pack of steaks or insulin!

Yes, people in Houston lost their mail service AND their house, and YES that is of course far, far worse.
It's just sad and silly that we didn't HAVE to lose mail for a week, whereas there it truly was unavoidable. All you had to do was keep the promise you apparently made to Flores' district to keep Bryan viable as a backup processing center. That's not too much to ask.

Perhaps if enough people here make claims for damages due to product rotting, going bad, melting, or being otherwise useless to the end user due to being a week and a half late, you'll see it might make financial sense as well as common sense to reroute the mail instead of waiting for Houston to dry out to your standards.

Alan Rose

I think these are really two separate issues. Being prepared for a hurricane of this magnitude is nearly impossible. Sure they can reopen the Bryan DC, but expecting any business to be prepared for this disaster is nearly impossible. We've been working with USPS employees for 20+ years suppling Postal Uniforms and we can tell you the people on the street meaning Letter Carriers, work their butts off.

Oh Really

Oh, and yes, I agree, the Bryan distribution center should be re-opened.

Oh Really

I have a package sitting in Houston since the day BEFORE Harvey hit Rockport, which means there is no excuse for it not having been delivered. I know this because of the tracking. I wonder if the post office is going to reimburse me for the contents. I won't hold my breath.

Darthie

What we need to do is petition the USPS to re-open the Bryan distribution center. They're has been nothing but problems since moving it to Houston. PLEASE somebody do something about this!

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