Problems persist in Steamboat as Postal Service officials, congressman seek answers
The U.S.Postal Service is keenly aware of delivery issues in the Steamboat Springs area and continues to aggressively work toward finding solutions, said spokesperson James Boxrud.
“We are still short-staffed at the Steamboat Post Office,“ said Boxrud, a communications specialist with the United States Postal Service, on Friday, Jan. 27. “We have been bringing up two additional employees during the week and more help on the weekends from around the state. This hasn’t been enough for us to stay current with the mail.”
Some customers in Routt County began experiencing issues with mail delivery back in December, and the Post Office has continued to work through staffing shortages for the past month. However, Boxrud said the biggest issue has been the need to replace two highway contract carriers that recently left.
“With the loss of commitments from two highway contract carriers, we have not been making our service commitments,” Boxrud said. “We do have a new contract carrier starting on Feb. 4 that will greatly improve delivery consistency.”
He said the Postal Service will be bringing in additional help coming from around the state, but because of the heavy snow expected in the Steamboat area this weekend, the additional help will not arrive until early next week.
The loss of the contract drivers has affected customers like Jennifer West and her neighbors south of Steamboat Springs in the Blacktail area, as well as customers on the west side of the city.
On Thursday, Jan. 26, West convinced a mail clerk to retrieve a package for her. West said her boyfriend, Dave Miller, was also able to persuade a clerk to give him a packet of mail that had been rubber banded together. However, they both say they are waiting for more mail they know has been sent and are losing trust in what the Postal Service has been telling them.
“They actually handed him a whole stack of mail bundled together by a rubber band,” West said. “He had a couple checks … and I had a couple checks from my vendor, one of which was postmarked in Denver on Jan. 9. We got bank statements and things like that, but we know there is more out there. Our neighbors are also still complaining that they’re not getting their mail. They’re not getting tax documents, and checks and various things.”
Boxrud said the area to the west of Steamboat Springs has been most impacted by the loss of the contract drivers. Since December, the Steamboat Pilot & Today has received emails from postal customers on the west and south sides of Steamboat Springs.
A resident in Silver Spur neighborhood told the Pilot earlier this week that mail deliveries to the cluster boxes in that area have been inconsistent and sporadic.
“The other contract carriers are working to fill the gap until we get the positions filled and new people trained,” Boxrud said.
The mail problems in Steamboat Springs are shared with many other mountain communities including Dillon and Frisco, as well as Buena Vista and Crested Butte.
Steamboat Springs City Manager, Gary Suiter said the Postal Service was a topic of discussion Thursday at the Colorado Association of Ski Towns.
”We had a robust discussion yesterday about postal service, and Crested Butte, who was kind of leading the charge, was trying to get a temperature of how the rest of the ski towns felt about it,“ Suiter said. “There was just a collective groan. It felt like everybody was dealing with Post Office issues.”
He said the problems need to be addressed at the federal level.
“Hiring, employment, recruitment, retention, housing — all those seem to be issues,” Suiter said. “I asked the question yesterday of the congressional representatives at our meeting, ‘Is this something that money can fix if we got a congressional appropriation, or is the system just is it systemically broken?’ The answer was that money would help, but there are some systemic issues that need to be addressed, including updating facilities that were built in years past are not able to accommodate the huge amount of packages that that we see today.”
Staff members for Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colorado, and Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colorado, where also on hand for the conversation.
In a statement to the Steamboat Pilot & Today, Neguse’s office said the service and conditions at the Steamboat Springs Post Office and many rural mountain post offices across his district are simply inexcusable, and his office has continued to relay his deep frustrations to United States Postal Service officials.
The congressman’s office has taken numerous steps to help assist in solving these problems, including requesting that the Postal Service provide alternate methods to pick up mail, aggressively recruit new staff and meet with the affected city and county leaders.
The statement said Neguse intends to directly implore the Postal Service’s Colorado-Wyoming district manager to address these challenges immediately and to hold the Postal Service accountable. He also intends to evaluate every recourse possible, including through the appropriations and legislative process.
Earlier this week, Boxrud said he understands the frustration in Steamboat Springs and other mountain areas. He said the Postal Service was working on scheduling a meeting next week with town officials, congressional representatives and U.S. Postal Service leadership to discuss staffing issues and housing options.
On Friday afternoon, Neguse’s office confirmed that meeting will take place this week, but couldn’t say exactly when.
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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