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Aliso Viejo Parcel Considered for New Sorting Center

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The U.S. Postal Service is considering a 25-acre parcel in Aliso Viejo as the site for a massive, mail-sorting center that would break a logjam at the overburdened Santa Ana sorting facility and speed mail deliveries throughout Orange County, postal officials said Monday.

The Postal Service Board of Governors, at a meeting here Friday, is expected to sign off on spending about $12 million to acquire the property, located in the Pacific Park commercial and industrial development owned by the Mission Viejo Co., officials said. The property is south of Pacific Park Drive, east of Wood Canyon Drive, and about 3 1/2 miles west of Interstate 5.

Hector Godinez, the U.S. Post Office’s district general manager in Santa Ana, said he would travel to Washington to try to convince the Board of Governors that the Postal Service would actually save money by building a South County facility.

“We’re in such terrible need of space in Orange County that we cannot handle any more mail,” Godinez said. “More residents are flocking to South County and Orange County every day and our mailbags are swollen with their mail. We have to decide whether we want to spend millions and millions of dollars to renovate old buildings to handle their mail or save money by building regional processing centers.”

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Godinez said the postal service chose the Aliso Viejo parcel over four other sites because it was the nearest location to Los Angeles International Airport, from where the bulk of the county’s mail is shipped. The four other sites included a 26.8-acre parcel in Mission Viejo--also owned by the Mission Viejo Co.--and three other locations near Rancho Santa Margarita in unincorporated areas of South County.

Officials of the Mission Viejo Co. said they are cautiously optimistic about the board of governors’ meeting.

“We understand that they are interested in one of our sites, but we’re not in escrow,” company spokeswoman Wendy Wetzel said. “If they decide on it, we’ll certainly welcome them to Aliso Viejo.”

Although the new postal plant has yet to be designed, the facility is scheduled to be built and in operation by the end of 1993, said Pat Brown, a Postal Service operations analyst. Its cost and size have yet to be determined, Brown said.

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But Godinez said he would recommend that the $12-million figure “coming out of Washington” be slashed by 33%. “That’s a high figure,” he said. “We want a good deal from the private sector on this one.”

Brown said the new postal plant will make it easier for postal authorities to cope with the number of deliveries and the volume of mail in Orange County. The new sorting plant, one of two new postal centers planned for the county, will speed mail delivery not only in South County, but also throughout the region, he said.

Trucks carrying South County’s mail to the processing facility in Santa Ana often get stuck in traffic, resulting in the mail’s missing the evening flights out of the Los Angeles airport. Godinez said that if a new postal plant is installed in Aliso Viejo, the mail would be sorted in South County during the peak traffic hours and then transported to Los Angeles.

Moving South County operations out of the existing sorting center in Santa Ana will also make room there for new machines that automatically read ZIP codes on pieces of mail, cutting the time it takes to process and deliver the mail. The Santa Ana facility was designed in the 1970s and completed in 1984, well before the population of South County exploded in the late 1980s.

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Eventually, Brown said, the Postal Service plans to build a third sorting center somewhere in northern Orange County. No timetable has been established for that plan, he said.

In addition to sorting mail for the area, the new South County postal plant may include facilities to expand local mail deliveries, although that has not yet been decided, Brown said.


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