Congressman urges postmaster general to get mail delivered in South Tahoe, investigate ‘what went wrong’

Postal service says it has acquired 4-wheel vehicles for carriers, requested assistance

Ashleigh Goodwin
Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The United States Postal Service’s problems in South Lake Tahoe have grabbed the attention of a congressman who has asked the postmaster general to take immediate steps to get mail delivered and to investigate after the issues are resolved as to what went so wrong, and why many residents have had no delivery for severals weeks.

U.S. congressman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), who serves California’s 3rd District, which includes Lake Tahoe, on Tuesday, Jan. 17, emailed a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, sharing his “serious” concerns after many constituents have called his office to complain about “unacceptably poor levels of service.” He also said it “appears there was a failure of basic planning, which led to what some are calling a collapse in basic services.”

Kiley also visited the Al Tahoe Post Office on Wednesday, Jan. 18, and spoke with people who were waiting in line.

“Indeed, service has declined to the point where constituents report they are not receiving mail at all — even when visiting the post office in person,” Kiley said in the letter. “At a time when many rely on the postal service to deliver essentials, including prescription drugs and other vital necessities, I don’t have to tell you how critical dependable mail delivery is to public — especially for those who face economic hardship or who are elderly, sick, infirm, or have difficulty traveling to the post office.”

Lake Tahoe has been pounded by a continuous series of storms that started in December and many times roads have been too impacted to deliver, but there have also been windows in the weather when roads are clear but mail still hasn’t been delivered.

With residents complaining, the postal service told those impacted in a press release heading into last weekend that it would offer special pick-ups for customers through the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday on Monday. The “special pick-ups” turned out to be not so special with residents waiting in line for more than two hours, and still didn’t receive all their mail they expected.

“I made my third trip to the post office today. They had four people at the counter instead of two and I was in line at 7:45 a.m. and left with mail at 9:30,” said Judy Johnson, who lives off Pioneer Trail, in an email to the Tribune. “One package-two still missing. I can’t get a refund on the two not delivered because they show they are ‘out for delivery’ by the post office. I’m leaving the country on Saturday for two months, so I’ll have to try to sort it out upon my return. I should mention I spent over three hours in line on my two previous trips. Unacceptable.”

A Forest Avenue resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Tribune, “I have not received mail since Christmas and a package, only once. If you host a pick up event, that’s saying, ‘if you want your mail you have to come get it we’re not going to deliver it.’”

When it comes to road conditions in South Lake Tahoe, City Manager Joe Irvin said that despite the unusual and prolonged storms there hasn’t been an emergency call within the city that first responders were unable to successfully respond to.

The postal service multiple times through spokesperson Kristina Uppal told the Tribune that winter weather was the primary reason for extensive delays in delivery. But the local service has also been apparently paralyzed by understaffing with “Now Hiring” signs posted in the Al Tahoe office and the postal service holding another basin hiring event this week.

Uppal said the post office team has not stopped to find safe solutions and have remained focused on the impact these conditions have brought to customers and employees. She also mentioned that the postal service is upgrading its fleet of vehicles.

“We have acquired several 4×4 vehicles to help our carriers deliver in these rough conditions,” Uppal said. “Additionally, assistance from outside the local area has come to help since the onset of the weather and we are requesting more assistance to help us deliver and aid in package pick-ups at our main post office. The winter storms have caused the shutdown of major freeways which did impact the travel from outside the local area to reach the facility.”

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