“We know”: Postal Service acknowledges growing mail problems in Colorado mountain towns

“We know”: Postal Service acknowledges growing mail problems in Colorado mountain towns

Paula Black realized what a sad state her local Steamboat Springs post office was in when she started seeing junk mail piles avalanching to the floor from tables in the lobby. She noticed cobwebs draping corners, dust coating everything, and parts hanging off old heaters.

So, she called on some friends to meet her at the post office with brooms, dust rags and trash bags last Saturday afternoon when the counter was closed and mailbox traffic minimal. They spiffed up the lobby so that it no longer looked like a place that had been without custodial services for months.

“I took a teeny, tiny nibble at solving one of the problems here, but I think it is a shame that I am cleaning a federal building for free,” said Black, a retiree who has lived in Steamboat Springs for half a century and never seen the town’s post office in such a state. She has now organized a twice-weekly volunteer cleaning crew to tackle the mess until the U.S. Postal Service can hire someone to do it.

If only such a crew could as easily tackle the mountains of postal woes that have continued to pile up faster than discarded mail and undelivered parcels in post offices across Colorado.

Towns that have been pleading for the past several years for relief from long lines, weeks long mail delays, lost mail, short staffs, and spotty — or no — hours of operation, have seen few improvements. Some problems have multiplied. And the number of communities and neighborhoods with complaints have jumped. At least one town has taken steps to sue the Postal Service, and half a dozen other towns plan to join in that effort.

“The system is broken, obviously. And I don’t know what the solution is,” said Sherry Yates, who operates Yates Yachts charter business out of Steamboat Springs and finally found some envelopes in her post office box this week after not receiving any business or personal mail for three weeks in January.

James Boxrud has the tough job of being a regional spokesperson for the Postal Service in an unprecedented era of PO’d customers, and he offered a mea culpa rather than trying to downplay these problems.

“We know we have not met the service expectations of the community and are working hard to restore the respect of the public,” Boxrud wrote in an email response to questions.

“Mail for us is a maybe. It is no longer an absolute.”

Postal Service customers across the political spectrum are losing faith in the long-sacrosanct government delivery of mail. The U.S. Postal Service promised just a year ago as part of the Postal Service Reform Act that delivery would improve and the agency would be more transparent about its problems. Two years ago, newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy touted a 10-year plan to change the Postal Service from an agency in crisis to one that is high performing.

Six months ago, DeJoy told the American Enterprise Institute in a rousing speech that the Postal Service has moved “to a status of stability.”

The Postal Service released data last week touting progress. The agency’s metrics show that the average time for delivery nationwide is 2.5 days. The release went on to say that 90.8% of first-class mail is delivered on time, as is 93.9% of marketing mail, and 84.7% of periodicals.

Buena Vista retiree Merilee Daugherty laughs about those brags and numbers.

“Mail for us is a maybe,” she said. “It is no longer an absolute.”

Daugherty is one of hundreds of postal patrons in Colorado who have turned to their elected representatives to complain because gripes to the Postal Service at the local and national level have too often gone into the same black hole as too much of the mail.

By: Nancy Lofholm I Colorado Sun I February 2023

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