Many may qualify for free PO boxes
SUMMIT COUNTY – Hundreds of postal patrons might be eligible for a free post office box since U.S. Postal Service (USPS) officials have ironed out inconsistencies in a policy that affected Summit County.
For years, postal patrons have heard tales of other residents who never had to pay for their post office boxes, and periodically questioned why they had to every year.
Even postal employees were confused about the issue.
All Americans are entitled to free postal delivery of some sort, but most Summit County residents pay for a box in their local post office.
Postal officials have since been scouring maps of Summit County to determine who might be eligible for free box rental. Those who are will receive a letter along with their renewal notice notifying them of the change and their eligibility.
From there, it is up to the post office boxholder to fill out the appropriate paperwork.
According to Dillon and Silverthorne Postmaster Rick Sprague, the changes won’t affect the Frisco Post Office because it has always offered free post office boxes to qualified customers. He estimates it could affect 20 percent of the 3,800 Silverthorne box holders and 3,700 Dillon box holders.
Determining who gets free boxes and who still must pay isn’t that simple. USPS public information officer Al DeSarro said a final number as to how many people will be affected remains undetermined.
One major criteria is that the USPS can deem only one free box for each physical residence – a requirement that will prevent a lot of roommates from obtaining a free box, Sprague said.
“Everyone in America is entitled to free delivery per address,” he said. “Even if you have six people living in your home, you only have one mailbox.”
According to Sheryl Wilson, post office operations manager for the area, residents are entitled to a free post office box only if the postal service does not offer delivery in their area and they live within town limits.
If delivery is available, or has been offered and refused, then residents must pay for their boxes.
Free boxes will also available to those who live in the town of Breckenridge, which has denied the USPS requests to place collection box units in the historic district.
While residents must petition to receive delivery service, such service is subject to a host of contingencies. Buildings and houses must be marked with 911 emergency system-registered addresses and all roads must be cleared.
If all the conditions are met, the post office will then install a collection box unit in a central location at its discretion, to which it will deliver the mail.
Sometimes, a developer in a new subdivision requests a box for residents, and if it’s located along an existing route, the postal agency will consider expanding that roadside service. But the cost of installation and maintenance then falls to the neighbors or the town – a requirement that has deterred some from requesting the boxes.
Door-to-door service is not available except in those areas where it has traditionally been provided. Those areas include Summit Cove, parts of Keystone, Blue River and parts of the area between Silverthorne and Kremmling. Because residents petitioned for it, the post office maintains highway contract routes to these areas, though the percentage of residents who actually receive the service is not overwhelmingly large, Sprague said. And because service is available to people along those routes, those who ask for a free post office box in town will likely be denied, Wilson said.
Karen Kirkpatrick, USPS consumer affairs manager for Colorado and Wyoming, noted that it won’t be worth it for boxholders to ask for a free box prior to their annual renewal date, as they have already paid for the box for the year.
“We’re requesting people go in at the time of renewal,” she said. “We don’t want offices bombarded by everyone going in at one time.”
Some postal customers have already requested their free boxes, Sprague said.
“I think people are happy about it,” he said. “We’re glad Sheryl got the details ironed out and everyone’s on the same page.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or email@example.com.
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