Postal office to clarify box policy
SUMMIT COUNTY – If you live in Frisco, you get one for free. If you live in Silverthorne or Dillon, you don’t.
If you live in Breckenridge, you may or may not.
Post office boxes have hit a nerve with Summit County residents who are upset over the fees they pay and what they perceive as inequities in the system of mail delivery.
Inequities concern whether or not people can get home delivery and subsequently, if they still have to pay for a post office box.
“To me it’s like government discrimination because there’s delivery to some and not to others,” Silverthorne resident Nicole Downey said. “Some of us have to pay and the rest of us get to sit at home and have (mail) delivered for free.”
Yet determining who is actually entitled to a free box and who receives delivery is a complicated matter.
In response to concerns raised recently by citizens in town council meetings, visits to the post offices and letters to the editor, the postmasters of the individual Summit County offices will meet with the region’s manager of post office operations, Sheryl Wilson, this Friday to nail down policies.
Post offices generally operate with a great deal of independence, a reality that often leads to confusion among residents and can dampen communication lines between offices.
“They all operate as independent foreign nations,” Summit County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom said.
Wilson, however, said that shouldn’t necessarily be the case.
“It should pretty much be the same rules when you go from post office to post office,” she said.
According to Wilson, local 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.
In the case of Frisco, it’s simple. No postal delivery service is available, so everyone gets a free box.
“We have people ask all the time why we don’t have delivery here,” Frisco Postmaster Terry McGeehan said. “Anybody can come in and request to start delivery. But once you get delivery, the cost of boxes goes up for everybody in the town.”
Which leads to Dillon and Silverthorne’s situation.
According to Rick Sprague, officer in charge of the two offices, in 1997 the postmaster approached the towns to offer delivery.
However, because the boxes would become the property of the towns after their installation, at that time the town councils decided against the service, citing maintenance costs and aesthetic concerns, according to Sprague.
“That’s why Dillon and Silverthorne charge for post office boxes,” he said. “Because if we make delivery available, and the town prohibits it, then we have to charge for the boxes because it’s not the postal service’s decision.”
Nevertheless, delivery service is available to many residents outside town limits, including Summit Cove, some parts of Keystone 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.
Dillon delivers to about 800 residences and has about 4,400 rented post office boxes between the main office and the Keystone contract station.
Silverthorne rents about 3,700 boxes and delivers to around 400 residences.
In Breckenridge, some residents reported receiving free boxes while others pay for the service. The postmaster there refused to comment.
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 at collection box unit (CBU), in a central location at its discretion, to which it will deliver all mail.
Door-to-door service is not available except in those areas where it has traditionally been provided.
“I’ve worked for the post office for 20 years, and as far as I know, the post office hasn’t offered to extend door-to-door service in that time,” Wilson said.
Snow removal has proven to be a sticking point in some instances, with towns and the county using their easements along roads to store piled snow and thereby prohibiting mail delivery access, Sprague and others said.
“They need to be able to give us access,” Sprague said.
However, that doesn’t satisfy some residents like Downey. She points to Summit Cove, Montezuma Road and other areas where delivery occurs as examples where snow has not been a problem.
“Everybody’s kind of passing the buck,” she said.
Which is something that Wilson seems set to rectify during Friday’s meeting.
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