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Colorado mountain communities consider legal action against USPS

Crested Butte has taken the lead to retain a Denver-based law firm to explore possible legal action against the U.S. Postal Service.

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — For the last few months, several mountain communities in Colorado have reported issues receiving their mail.

Buena Vista and Steamboat Springs have reported delivery issues causing weeks-long delays.

Soon after, Summit County reported issues.

Now, Crested Butte is taking the lead in considering legal action against the U.S. Postal Service (USPS)

This week, the town announced they have retained the services of Kaplan Kirsh Rockwell LLP (KKR), a Denver-based law firm, to explore possible legal claims against USPS.

"Ultimately, our outcome is we want to be able to receive mail similar to most functioning postal customers in this country," said Crested Butte's town manager, Dara MacDonald. "We shouldn't have to wait 2 to 6 weeks to get mail. We shouldn't have to wait in line for an hour to receive a parcel. We shouldn't have to pay for postal boxes when there's no home delivery option."

According to a release, the action is backed by six other municipalities: Avon, Buena Vista, Parachute, Silverthorne, Snowmass Village and Steamboat Springs. 

Lawyers are currently researching two avenues for a potential lawsuit, the press release said. One is violations of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, and "Last Mile Delivery" contracts the release said USPS has with internet retailers. 

Credit: Credit: Dara MacDonald
A line for Crested Butte's Post Office runs out the door on Aug. 22.

While mail delays have been an issue, MacDonald also says their local post office consistently sees lines that are hours long since they're a community without home delivery for parcels.

Aside from staffing shortages within the post office itself, she said it's a situation that has been growing since 2018 with the rise in online shopping. 

"I think we all agree that for our local employees at our post office who do show up every day and struggle against this overwhelming volume of mail and short staffing, we're very grateful for them," MacDonald said. "And we in the mountain communities understand that housing is a huge challenge and that we have been encouraging the post office to embrace providing housing, as we all do as employers as well. And so far, that hasn't gotten much traction. But I think it's a combination of both pay and providing housing that helps to provide employee stability in our communities."

The situation is also being monitored from the nation's capital. 

Last month, a press release said Democratic Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper invited Postmaster Louis DeJoy to join them on a tour of a USPS facility in Colorado to "see firsthand the ongoing service and delivery challenges that Coloradans face."

On Friday, a spokesperson for Sen. Bennet said they're in "regular communication" with the towns listed in the action. 

Credit: Credit: Dara MacDonald
A line for Crested Butte's Post Office runs out the door on Aug 22, 2022.

USPS recently cited staffing shortages for the issues. 

Last month, they held a job fair to hire for 600 open positions. 

A USPS spokesperson, James Boxrud, recently updated that number saying there were roughly 425 positions still available in Colorado and Wyoming as of Friday. 

"Over the last two months, USPS operations in several Colorado mountain communities have not met our standards," Boxrud said. "Delivery inconsistency, retail lines, longer than expected delivery windows, and building cleanliness have all been brought to our attention."

In response, USPS said it's taken a long list of steps including hiring drivers to fill vacant routes, borrowing employees from across the west to help with deliveries, and deployed teams to assess mountain community delivery to help streamline operations, among other things. 

They claim operations have been stabilized and that mail is "current" as a result of those steps. 

To apply for a job with USPS, click here, then click on “Search Jobs,” select “Colorado,” and click “Start."


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