SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — Mountain communities say they are fed up to the point of considering legal action because the mail situation has gotten so bad.
Summit County joins the list of high country communities reporting recent problems receiving mail on time, long lines at the post office, and little to no response from the U.S. Postal Service.
“There [are] pieces of [expected] mail I haven’t seen for weeks. It’s quite incredible to me,” said Nathan Johnson, Town Manager of Dillon. “A lot of concerns we’re hearing are from people who have prescription [medications] getting mailed to them, they’re not even getting those. You also have a lot of concerns with retirees trying to get checks, etc. They’re not getting those either.”
“So right now, we’re sort of at a point in time where, we don’t know what to do,” he said.
Throughout the past few weeks, and in an email Thursday night, a USPS spokesperson pointed to staffing issues.
“In Dillon, Silverthorne, and Steamboat Springs we are short staffed, and our current employees are doing all they can to serve their customers. The postmaster and current employees are working to fill the gap until we can permanently fill those positions. Additionally, we lost the commitments from a few highway contract carriers which has intensified us not making our service commitments.”
USPS said they have moved some employees around the state to help get caught up on the mail, but in many places that still hasn’t solved the problem. USPS said it is asking for more employees from outside Colorado to come to this state for a longer commitment to help “stabilize the situation.”
On Thursday, USPS said the agency is “current” with mail and deliveries in Buena Vista after pulling four employees from Colorado Springs to help. The Buena Vista community also reported issues with mail service earlier this month.
But Johnson and other Summit County leaders said the Postal Service has been difficult to work with, and that they are poor communicators.
“We’re coming to the table trying to help with solutions whether it be housing, or some of our other partners in the county have even offered up staff to help sort mail, etc. It’s going nowhere,” he said.
“We literally set up a Zoom meeting and nobody showed up,” added Philip Gonshak, Summit County’s interim county manager, who said local leaders are considering legal action against the Postal Service if the problem persists and communication remains difficult.
“We’re all literally starving to try and find a message that’s clear, responsive, and most importantly effective – and we’re just lacking that from USPS.”
On Tuesday, Summit County leaders said they had a phone call meeting with USPS, but said there were no solutions reached.
In an email, USPS did not have a response to the possibility of a lawsuit. The agency said the missed meeting referenced by the town leaders was “sent to individual Postmasters in the area and the request to meet wasn’t forwarded to our district office.”
“We know we have not met service expectations of the community and are working hard to restore the respect of the public,” USPS said by email Thursday.
State and federal elected leaders have gotten involved, too. Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse wrote a letter to USPS this week accusing the agency of “mismanagement” of the many rural mountain post offices in western Colorado, and saying USPS has declined “nearly every opportunity” to work with local communities on solutions.
"These rural mountain communities are simply not receiving a level of service even close to what the district management of USPS is required to provide," Neguse wrote.
USPS said it is “aggressively” seeking clerks and carriers.
The agency has been ongoing holding career fairs, with another one scheduled for Buena Vista on Feb. 11. USPS said rural carrier pay starts at $24.42 per hour with full benefits, and clerk positions start at $20.05.
Gonshak said it's devastating trying to answer to residents’ questions and concerns about their mail.
“Seems like [USPS] may be trying but we’re not seeing a lot of action, and that’s really what we need, are direct results,” he said.
“Because our residents are the ones that are suffering the most. And that’s frustrating.”
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