Staffing shortages and lack of space contributing to postal problems in Colorado mountain towns

· Dec. 7, 2023, 1:10 pm
20230203-POST-OFFICE-CASTLE-ROCK20230203-POST-OFFICE-CASTLE-ROCKHart Van Denburg/CPR News
The main Post Office in Castle Rock, Feb. 3, 2023.

Updated on Dec 8 at 7:43 a.m.

A U.S. Postal Service Inspector General report confirmed what many residents in Colorado mountain towns already know: service in the high country is slower compared to the rest of the state and nation.

“On-time mail delivery was up to five percentage points lower,” the report stated. It also found that package delivery was also lower than the nationwide average. However, how big that gap actually is was left unclear, as numbers regarding package delivery were redacted from the public report. 

The Postal Service said the redactions are to protect the release of “proprietary business information” of USPS related to its competitive products, such as Priority Mail.

For Colorado lawmakers, who have seen these complaints increase in the last couple of years, the report made clear Coloradans aren’t getting the service they are required to receive.

“I think the audit confirms what we already knew, which is significant mail delays, huge gaps in services,” said Rep. Brittany Pettersen. The freshman Democrat heard about delivery problems in her district during her first weeks in office

The report blamed some of the trouble on understaffing and Pettersen said she’s looking at different options “for additional support for cost of living, stipends” to help serve rural communities better.

“Mail service is one of the most important things that we provide. And we need to make sure that it’s working for people no matter where you live,” Pettersen said.

What the report found

The report looked at just over a dozen mountain post offices in Colorado, from Westcliffe and Buena Vista to Steamboat Springs to Dillon.

The findings echoed what many residents have noted for years. There are staffing and retention issues, in part due to the high cost of living, especially housing. That has led workers to face “long hours, high tensions, and the inability to meet customer needs.”

Some mountain post offices don’t have the necessary space to deal with the growing number of packages, especially due to the e-commerce they have to handle.

The report also raised some other issues, such as improper handling of mail and packages leading to delays and misinformation or that transportation schedules did not match up with the workflow of some of the post offices, also contributing to delays.

Investigators made nine recommendations, from increasing pay in Colorado mountain towns based on locality to reviewing trip times to make sure they align with transportation schedules.

“It is critical that the USPS immediately implement the recommended reforms in the OIG audit report and take these steps forward to increase transparency and accountability for the lower on-time service performance,” said Rep. Joe Neguse.

Members of the delegation are calling on the Postal Service to implement the recommendations quickly, pledging to work with them to ensure it happens. 

“If they don't fix it — and again it's preferable that the postal service will fix this on their own — but if they don't, then we'll have to do legislation,” said Sen. John Hickenlooper. He and Sen. Michael Bennet met with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in Marc to discuss the mail service problems in Colorado. This came after the two invited DeJoy to tour a Postal Service facility in the state to see firsthand the challenges customers and workers face.

But after years of complaints, there’s only so much time the lawmakers are willing to give the Postal Service to fix the problems. Hickenlooper predicted that if Colorado mountain towns aren’t experiencing better service by this time next year, you’ll see legislation to improve the situation.

You care.

You want to know what is really going on these days, especially in Colorado. We can help you keep up.  The Lookout is a free, daily email newsletter with news and happenings from all over Colorado. Sign up here and we will see you in the morning!