Aspen residents going postal over continued mail service problems
As the nearly two dozen people stood in line at the Aspen post office for up to an hour the day before Christmas Eve, they joked that town is a world-class resort with third-world postal services.
Long wait times at the counter, undelivered mail, lost packages and trash strewn on the lobby floor have plagued the post office for years.
For longtime Aspenite Keith Poliakoff, the mail service in Aspen is a joke.
He was picking up roughly 30 packages he had ordered from Amazon and they had not made it to his house on Cemetery Lane even though some had been marked that they had been delivered.
Other tracked packages said they were lost by the carrier or there was a “snow hold” on them even though it hadn’t snowed in more than a week.
“I don’t even get my mail,” Poliakoff said Monday evening as he was picking up his packages. “It’s enough already … they are paid to deliver the mail.
“I’d rather say we are too busy we aren’t delivering,” he continued. “It’s unreal, it’s a blatant lie.”
He filled out a complaint form provided at the counter by a clerk. He wrote, “carrier is not delivering to my house and is lying on why they are not delivering.”
A supervisor came to the counter and told Poliakoff that he would look into the issue and talk to the carrier.
Aleicia Dickson, postmaster for the Aspen and Snowmass Village offices, inherited the local postal issues when she arrived in her new role in March.
She said she’s heard it all in terms of complaints and is working to find solutions to the problems that plague both offices.
“I took this job to figure out how to solve problems in the system,” she said Monday night after the office was closed and after she had gone out to deliver mail on a route there was no carrier for.
Dickson has posted job openings for two full-time carrier positions, five clerk positions, two custodial positions and five part-time clerk and carrier positions.
“I’ve posted those jobs 150 times, so it’s not for a lack of trying,” she said, adding that the current 25 employees who work at the Aspen office are working from 7 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m. during the weeks leading up to the holidays.
The pay for carriers and clerks starts at just over $17 an hour, which is hardly a living wage with the high cost of living and housing shortage in the valley.
“I’m not getting local applicants,” Dickson said. “How do I compete?”
Couple the understaffing with record volumes coming through the Aspen post office — 3,800 parcels were processed Monday — and the frustration can build.
“This is the heaviest I’ve ever seen,” she said. “We had to stop processing for a while because we had so much in here. At 7:45 a.m. I had two trucks in the back waiting for us to clear.”
Dickson also noted the size of the packages is now an issue with Amazon dominating the market.
A delivery truck leaving the post office on Monday afternoon was jammed to the brim with boxes to the point that the driver could not be seen from the passenger window.
To deal with the garbage that accumulates in the lobby after hours, Dickson removed the trash cans in the hopes that people would not throw discarded mail on the floor and counters.
She said would love to hire a cleaning service or let citizens who have volunteered to clean the lobby, but her hands are tied because the United States Postal Service is unionized.
Dickson has borrowed USPS employees from other post offices to clean the lobby and believes it’s better than what it was, although she recognizes it’s still an issue.
Aspen Mayor Torre met with Dickson after he received complaints from residents about overflowing trash receptacles and poor service.
“I met with Aleicia to find out where she’s at with her process and what her awareness of it is and she was really great,” he said. “She shared a lot of her ambition and initiatives for what she wants to see this post office operating at.”
But staffing and housing are two big obstacles, which Torre said he would like the city to help support the postal service in addressing.
Dickson said she would like to drill down the numbers and lean on the city government to help make the case to the USPS that it needs to raise the hourly rate for workers.
“I need assistance,” she said. “Help us hire.”
On Monday afternoon at the Aspen post office, there were 18 people in line and two clerks at the counter.
David Rupert, acting manager of the western area corporate communications, said staffing is an issue system-wide.
Based in Denver, Rupert was working in the Frisco post office Monday to help out with an understaffed location.
“It’s a record year and we apologize and appreciate people’s patience,” he said, adding that the reason the counter isn’t fully staffed is because those workers are needed in the back of the house to help sort. “Everybody is working, you just don’t see them working. It’s just like Santa Claus.”
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