Congressman pushing for post office answers |

Congressman pushing for post office answers

Allyn Harvey

U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis has sent a second letter to the U.S. PostmasterGeneral, after his first letter seeking answers about policy changesat the post office in Aspen was met with what one congressionalstaffer called a “mealy-mouthed” reply.McInnis, who represents Aspen and much of the Western Slope, enteredthe local postal fracas on Feb. 23, when he fired off his firstletter to the postmaster general after hearing from an angry newspaperpublisher about changes under way at the Puppy Smith Street postalfacility.”These guys need to be more responsive to the community,” McInnistold the Times last week. “If something’s not broke, don’t fixit. There’s nothing broken in Aspen, so needless to say we’rea little dismayed by the action the post office has taken.”Aspen’s normally busy post office became the center of debatein January, when a postal manager from Golden was named Aspen’sinterim postmaster. Once in charge, Jarman Smith shook the townup with a series of policy changes which he said were meant tobring Aspen in line with U.S. Postal Service policy. In late January, Smith threatened to require boxholders who don’tpick up their mail on a regular basis to rent bigger, more expensiveboxes. Overstuffed boxes, he said, require the post office tostore mail in its operations area. He also outlined fees to belevied against anyone who leaves their box stuffed with mail forextended periods.Last month, Smith rerouted vehicle traffic by chaining off theroad behind the post office, forcing motorists to exit into thebusy Clark’s Market parking lot. A week later, he ordered two-dozennewspaper vending machines removed from postal property, endingmany residents’ daily ritual of picking up as many as six differentnewspapers along with their mail.Smith also declared an end to the decades-old policy of allowinglocal activists and politicians to stand in front of the postoffice to gather signatures on petitions. If anyone is caughtpetitioning on postal property, Smith said, they would be askedto leave and if necessary, the police would be called.Smith has since assigned a new officer in charge at the Aspenpost office until a new local postmaster is named.In his Feb. 23 letter, McInnis addressed only the issue of theorder to remove the newspaper vending machines. His latest letterincludes questions about the ban on petitioning, as well. “According to your guide to postal information,” McInnis writes,citing post office literature, ” `Post offices serve as much morethan a place for sending and receiving mail. They are often thefocus of a community’s identity and, in smaller communities, informalgathering places for people to meet and greet neighbors and sharedaily conversation.’ “”With that in mind,” McInnis continues, “I find it difficult tounderstand the removal of these newspaper dispensers in Aspenin addition to the prohibition of signature gathering by politicalgroups. In my view, successful customer service does not includeinhibiting the exercise of free speech.”McInnis aide Will Bos said the postmaster general’s office respondedto the Feb. 23 letter last Wednesday. Bos said the postal staffmembers he spoke with had done nothing to familiarize themselveswith the situation in Aspen and offered only vague, impreciseanswers to the congressman’s inquiry.

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