Neguse cites ‘deep concern’ over US Postal Service mismanagement, as Silverthorne Town Manager says legal action is being considered
Issues at U.S. Postal Service offices in Summit County and other mountain communities prompted Congressman Joe Neguse to pen a letter to the agency citing a lack of communication with local officials.
As Summit County residents say issues with local U.S. Postal Service offices have grown worse in recent weeks, local and federal government officials have urged Postal Service leadership to take action.
U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, in a letter sent to U.S. Postal Service officials Tuesday, Jan. 31, expressed “deep concerns” about the mismanagement of post offices in western Colorado. Meanwhile, Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland said some mountain towns are considering legal action against the federal agency.
In the letter addressed to Jason McMahill, the Postal Service district manager for the Colorado-Wyoming district, Neguse urged immediate action to address concerns about post offices in Summit, Eagle, Grand and Routt counties. He said the situations in Dillon, Silverthorne and Steamboat Springs are “especially dire.”
“My office has consistently received a steady stream of complaints and pleas for help from my constituents and local leaders in the mountain communities referenced above,” Neguse wrote. “In recent months, the volume of complaints has significantly increased as your agency’s level of service has deteriorated alarmingly in many communities.”
Residents have reported issues including sporadic or nonexistent mail delivery, backlogs of mail and packages piling up behind service desks, unreasonably restricted and unpredictable operating hours and a lack of access to P.O. Boxes, according to the letter.
“Constituents regularly come to our offices in a panic, wondering when they will receive medications, bills, checks, passports, and other essential items,” Neguse wrote.
At the Dillon Post Office, some customers endured lines so long during the holiday season that they were compelled to bring lawn chairs to wait in, Neguse wrote. And, P.O. Box access there has been limited on weekdays, with only a handful of hours on Saturdays, meaning that hundreds of local workers have no way to access their daily mail, according to the letter.
Problems with mail delivery have grown worse in Silverthorne as well, as residents have reported waiting weeks for items to be delivered — even as U.S. Postal Service Informed Delivery, a free service that emails users preview images of incoming mail, shows letters and bills arriving for them.
“I can’t balance my checkbook because I don’t have my bank statements,” David Evans, a Silverthorne resident, said Tuesday.
Evans said it has been over a month since he has received mail at the community cluster boxes near his home in Willowbrook Meadows. He said he is waiting on thousands of dollars in retirement checks, some of which may have expiration dates.
Hyland, the Silverthorne Town Manager, said other residents have expressed similar issues as the town’s post office — and their delivery contractors — have been impacted by understaffing.
He said that in addition to imploring the U.S. Postal Service to restore service, he has also told agency officials that a lack of communication is part of the problem.
“It should be frequent,” Hyland said. “They’re in a crisis and they should be operating in communication crisis mode.”
All of these issues, according to Hyland, have the leaders of some Colorado mountain communities, including Silverthorne, discussing amongst themselves whether collective legal action against the U.S. Postal Service might be necessary.
“Residents should understand that this is what it has gotten to that this is being considered by a number of mountain communities,” he said.
U.S. Postal Service spokesperson Jame Boxrud said the Silverthorne Post Office continues to be short staffed, is struggling to deliver one of its routes in town, and has lost the commitment of one of its highway contractors. Additional employees are being brought in from around the state, Boxrud said, but this hasn’t been enough for the post office to stay current with the mail. The U.S. Postal Service also is now seeking additional employees from outside the state, he said.
Interim County Manager Philip Gonshak also said that communication from U.S. Postal Service officials has exacerbated the issue. About a month ago, county officials learned that local postmasters might be interested in affordable housing opportunities that could be available through the county, Gonshak said.
But, when the county scheduled a Zoom meeting with regional U.S. Postal Service officials, they didn’t show, he said.
County Commissioner Tamara Pogue, a Dillon resident, said she has also tried to propose creative solutions to address issues at local post offices but got the sense that regulations and red tape prevent the agency from accepting local help. For example, she said she suggested the county could help with housing needs or help provide added security at the Dillon Post Office so access to P.O. Boxes could be extended.
“We sent our first letter to the U.S. Postal Service almost two years ago and got no response,” Pogue said. “We’ve continued to try to start a conversation about what we can do as a county to help the U.S. Postal Service and it just doesn’t seem like we’ve been able to find a way to work with (the agency) to identify solutions.”
Neguse said in his letter that when the mayors of Frisco, Dillon and Vail reached out to U.S. Postal Service officials to initiate discussions about the possibility of developing housing on underutilized Postal Service properties, agency officials refused to meet.
“We find this lack of initiative immensely frustrating when local leaders continue to raise these challenges and propose creative solutions, only to have them be ignored,” he wrote.
None of the issues at local post offices have anything to do with “the herculean efforts of front line postal workers,” Neguse said, echoing a sentiment that every public official and many Summit County residents also expressed in interviews with Summit Daily.
Dillon Mayor Carolyn Skowyra said with help from Neguse she finally got on a call with U.S. Postal Service district officials Tuesday. She said she and other local officials pushed for the U.S. Postal Service to commit to clearing up the backlog of mail and also discussed issues such as housing and the high cost of living in Summit County.
“We didn’t get any great answers about when the mail will be sorted,” Skowyra said. “But we did stress over and over how critical it is that the mail be delivered on time to our community.”
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