The Postal Service’s Latest Problem: Dilapidated, Unsafe Buildings

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe Carolyn Kaster/AP File Photo

The U.S. Postal Service has slashed jobs, posted net losses for several consecutive years, raised its prices and cut back on services. The latest problem for the beleaguered agency? Decrepit post offices.

USPS instituted a capital spending freeze in 2009, resulting in a severe underfunding of postal facilities’ upkeep, the agency’s inspector general wrote in a blog post this week. The Postal Service slashed $382 million in its budget for facility repairs between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2012.

The agency did not complete more than 19,000 repairs in fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2012, according to a recent IG report. Half of those uncompleted projects represented safety or security risks, and about 16 percent presented potential Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations.

Left untreated, the condition of buildings in need of repair could worsen. The IG said the total repair price tag could eventually come to $1.4 billion, calling the figure a “conservative” estimate. The IG criticized the Postal Service for not properly allocating funds to nip those costs in the bud.

“Our audit found the Postal Service lacking in developing a strategy to complete all necessary repairs and it did not always accurately prioritize repairs,” the inspector general’s office wrote. “We recommended it develop a strategy, reallocate funds to complete repairs, and reconcile its prioritization list annually.”

USPS management agreed with the IG’s recommendations and vowed to develop a strategy by April for funding the repairs. Postal Service facilities include 32,000 post offices, mail processing facilities and annexes -- a total of 280 million square feet. 

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