Buena Vista Postal Styles Are PO’d
The folks standing at the corners of Brookdale and Highway 24 Friday were clear about their meat: A mailbox in Buena Vista costs $166 a year — or more — after prices nearly doubled this year, and residents had no option for residential delivery.
Counter hours have been reduced. Parcels get lost or delayed, sometimes for weeks. A man had to borrow someone else’s medicine because it got lost in the mail. Night mail is sometimes not sent overnight.
There is one story about the insurance being canceled due to the loss of many bills. One woman has been known to rent a nursery while standing in line. Waiting at the counter – often staffed by only one employee – can occupy 20 people in depth.
The protesters want to make it clear that they are not targeting the overworked postal workers in their town. They admit that the Buena Vista Post Office shares the same labor shortages seen across Chaffee County and most of the United States, but they see bigger problems with the system, which according to Mary Ann Ozelak, is likely to make an enviable amount in box fees than places like Buena Vista .
“They take over $300,000 from this valley,” she said as drivers raised their voices at her sign.
The situation has gotten its share of media attention lately, with Friday’s protest attracting reporters from Denver and a story written by Bruce Finley in today’s Denver Post.
Ozelak, who helped organize the protest that will also run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, began writing letters to top US Postal Service officials six years ago. She said she often saw empty promises to examine and solve problems.
She also created a Facebook group, Buena Vista Citizens For a Better Post Office, which has 371 members. She said she was surprised, but not surprised that the membership had become so large. “The purpose of this group is to pressure the Buena Vista Post Office to comply with regulations by providing free mailboxes and reimbursing the rental costs paid so far,” the page’s introduction reads.
“I originally set it up because I thought it was unfair to pay for a PO box,” she explained, noting that some cities in Colorado have free boxes while others see increasingly expensive fees. Residents of rural Salida receive free home delivery, although they also complain about lost letters and parcels and a general slowdown in mail service.
Postal Service Reform Act (HR3076) Will It Help?
As I mentioned before AVV, The Postal Service Reform Act (HR3076) passed both houses, and on April 6, 2022 it became Public Law No.: 117-108. The question is: will it help and when?
Suffice it to say, the US Postal Service is struggling with a significant decline in first-class mail, which has been a traditional source of profit. The agency has had to fully fund its retiree’s healthcare costs, telling everyone it has lost more than $90 billion since 2007. The self-financed entity relies on selling services such as rental boxes, postage stamps, and postal products.
The pandemic has put new pressures on the postal service, as people have turned to online shopping for necessities which has led to a significant increase in parcel traffic, as well as urban residents moving to smaller towns which in turn have begun to see a shortage of mailboxes. A shortage of workers continued to emerge.
James Boxrod, Strategic Communications Specialist for the Western District of the USPS, wrote in response: “Currently at Buena Vista, we have shortcomings as much as half of our staff and our current employees are doing everything they can to serve our customers.” Attorney. “We know we have not met the expectations of service to the community and are working hard to restore the public’s respect.”
Boxrud noted that the USPS has positions open in most parts of Colorado. He also said the USPS is currently evaluating criteria for Buena Vista box holders “that take into account local laws, physical barriers, rural delivery access, etc., and review who qualifies for duty-free mailboxes.”
“We are very close to a solution,” he said.
“People within the city limits traditionally received their mail in the mailbox,” he wrote. “In fact, the majority of Colorado cities do not have city delivery, and the post office or general delivery is the way mail is received. To illustrate this fact, within an 80-mile radius of Buena Vista, there are only four other cities that offer delivery services. Within the city or rural areas: Vail, Aspen, Leadville, and Salida”.
Boxrud also said that while the USPS is not generally supported by tax dollars, it has seen many changes in the cost of doing business, including fuel, transportation and healthcare benefits — “all of which have continued to increase.” He said the pricing takes into account the prices charged by local competitors for similar services as well as consumer demand.
The Buena Vista case includes a 1997 survey among local customers, who were said to have refused home delivery in the city. According to locals who researched the situation, there was no mention of fees in the survey. Some people say residents voted for home delivery, but that poll seems hard to find these days.
Chuck Dorsey, who splits his time between Buena Vista and Arizona, stood by the highway to protest what he experienced as bullshit and much frustration. “I’ve stood in line 12 times with six to 12 people in front of me asking them, for two months, to stop forwarding my mail to my other address,” he said, noting that he had just received a June 10 newspaper.
Marie Goulash, who waved a pink neon sign into traffic, had a more succinct remark: “The service is bad and we have to pay for it,” she said.
Featured image: Chuck Dorsey stands along Highway 24 to protest service and fees at the Buena Vista Post Office. Photo by Tara Flanagan