The U.S. Postal Service dedicated its 200,000-square-foot processing center near Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday, giving the public a behind-the-scenes look at the system handling more than 2 million pieces of mail a day.
Known as the "Incoming Mail Facility," the center located off Nursery Road in the Hock Industrial Park was built because "the volume of mail in the area has exploded," said Deborah Yackley, a Postal Service spokeswoman. It opened in February.
The center receives mail from the airport and sorts it for distribution to post offices throughout the Baltimore area, with about 450 employees and $3 million worth of state-of-the-art, automated equipment, officials said.
But as fascinating as multiposition letter-sorting machines and small-parcel bundle sorters may have been to the adults taking lTC yesterday's tour, the main attraction as far as children were concerned was an appearance by a costumed purple dinosaur.
Many of the children gathered around Barney and were more intent on listening to him than to the speakers at the dedication ceremony. Afterward, children and adults went inside for cake, popcorn and punch.
The machinery -- a far cry from the Postal Service's preautomation dinosaur days -- can sort mail by ZIP code and bar code at high speeds.
Center manager Timothy Haney said he expects it to handle even more than the current 2 million to 3 million items a day when the Incoming Mail Facility is in full operation in September.
The building was constructed to incorporate proposals and recommendations from "process action teams" of Postal Service officials and employees, and built in 11 months at a cost that was $5 million below the budgeted $26.4 million, Mr. Haney said.
He said its work force is expected to grow to about 600, and the facility's success would depend on employees more than the machines.
"The building is run by the people," he said. "Success is shared by the contributions of the employees. The employees are 100 percent committed to making this facility successful, and I appreciate that."