US Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper call postmaster general’s response ‘unsatisfactory’ after meeting to discuss Colorado postal issues

While U.S. Postal Service officials say they are working to address and have addressed many of the issues raised by residents of Colorado Mountain towns, legislators in Washington, D.C., are not convinced.

The Silverthorne Post Office on Thurs., March 9, 2023.
Ryan Spencer/Summit Daily News

Around the beginning of February, the cluster box near Dan Wall’s home a couple miles north of Silverthorne in unincorporated Summit County started overflowing with mail.

After weeks with sparse — if any — mail delivery, he said Christmas cards, bills and letters finally began to arrive. Between Feb. 4 and Feb. 8, Wall said he received 79 pieces of mail, most with postmarks from December and one piece postmarked as early as Dec. 2.

“These issues with the post office have basically been going on as long as I’ve lived here but they’ve gotten much worse,” Wall said. “We’ve had delayed mail for a very long period of time. The mail here is the worst I’ve seen anywhere.”

A 10-year resident of Silverthorne, Wall is just one of many residents who have raised concerns about lackluster U.S. Postal Service operations in Summit County. Over the past few months, delays in mail delivery and other postal issues have led some residents to receive important documents late and impacted others’ access to prescription medications delivered by mail.

As officials in several Colorado mountain towns have stated publicly that they are considering legal action against the U.S. Postal Service, some residents like Wall have brought the issues to their elected representatives in Washington, D.C.

In late January, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse expressed “deep concerns” about the mismanagement of post offices in western Colorado in a letter to U.S. Postal Service officials that pointed to issues at the Dillon Post Office and Silverthorne Post Office as examples.

Then, last month, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper invited Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — the CEO of the U.S. Postal Service — to visit the state to witness the problems firsthand.

The letter stated that the senators’ offices had seen a “sharp rise in complaints” from Coloradans over the past two years and invited DeJoy to tour a local post office.

Bennet and Hickenlooper have since met with DeJoy and raised the issues with him directly, according to a news release from their offices.

“Coloradans are waiting weeks for their mail,” Hickenlooper said in the release. “That’s weeks for prescriptions, Social Security payments, and important bills.”

In the statement, he described DeJoy’s response to the concerns as being “unsatisfactory.”

DeJoy did not offer specifics on his commitment to improve service and delivery issues facing Coloradans, according to a spokesperson for Bennet’s office, but indicated that the U.S. Postal Service was working on improvements.

Bennet requested a specific list of what these improvements will be, the spokesperson for his office said, and again invited DeJoy to Colorado. But, DeJoy has yet to schedule a visit, the spokesperson said, who said Bennet remains hopeful he will make the trip.

At the meeting with Hickenlooper and Bennet, DeJoy detailed the challenges and root causes his analysis has identified in specific Colorado postal routes and facilities, according to a news release from the U.S. Postal Service.

DeJoy explained the challenges are directly related to the nature of rural and contract routes, and the hiring challenges connected to the local cost of living and housing, according to the release. These pressures have occurred due to an increase in the number of local delivery points and package deliveries, according to the U.S. Postal Service.

DeJoy told the Senators that response teams have been deployed to guide local efforts, and personnel resources from local communities and a neighboring state have been sent to assist, the release states.

“The solutions in mail delivery service inevitably involve human resources, and our workforce, no matter how hard working, are spread thin in these mountain communities where it is expensive to live and difficult to hire; a challenge that will also need creative solutions from local leaders,” Postmaster General DeJoy said in the release. “The Postal Service can and will solve problems within our own power, but local economic conditions are not among them.”

DeJoy said in his statement that the senators appeared to understand the issues and to appreciate the “multifaceted steps we are taking to deploy resources to improve service.”

U.S. Postal Service spokesperson James Boxrud said that post offices in Summit County have been caught up with mail delivery for almost a month. The U.S. Postal Service has hired drivers to fill vacant routes, borrowed employees from across the West to augment staff and stabilize delivery, cleaned local facilities, deployed teams to assess mountain community delivery to help streamline and improve operations, and held multiple hiring fairs to replenish staffing, Boxrud said.

“Thanks to these efforts, all operations have been stabilized and the mail is current,” Boxrud said.

Still, as residents have experienced issues with the U.S. Postal Service for years, some residents like Wall are not yet convinced that issues will not reemerge.

“It was like there was a clot in the system,” Wall said. “And every once and a while they’d remove the clot and the stuff would come through.”

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