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Complaints pile up with Durango-area mail delivery

U.S. Postal Service acknowledges labor shortages
Susan Beller picks up her mail on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, in front of her Durango home. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The U.S. Postal Service’s unofficial motto includes the saying, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

The creed doesn’t say anything about labor shortages and financial woes impacting timely mail service.

That, more than anything, may be to blame for the increase in complaints stemming from residents in recent months when it comes to mail delivery in Durango and La Plata County.

“The Durango Post Office is in need of additional employees,” said James Boxrud, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Denver, in an email to The Durango Herald. “For the Durango area we need to hire close to a dozen people, mostly carrier positions.”

To apply

Go to usps.com/careers, click on “Search Jobs,” select “Colorado,” click “Start,” then click on the link for the appropriate job.

A general overview of USPS employment requirements, specific job requirements and hourly pay is available at the website.

Other positions are also available, including mail handler assistant, mail processing clerk and more. Job postings are updated weekly, so check back for additional opportunities.

Applicants must be 18 years of age and be able to pass drug screening and a criminal background investigation. For driving positions, applicants must have a valid state driver’s license, a safe driving record and at least two years of unsupervised experience driving passenger cars or larger. Driving experience must have taken place in the United States, its territories or in U.S. military installations worldwide. USPS is an equal opportunity employer offering a fast-paced, rewarding work environment with competitive compensation packages, on-the-job training and opportunities for advancement.

He encouraged interested applicants to apply online for positions that pay $19.94 to $22.13 per hour, depending on the position.

Durango-area residents have complained for months about inconsistent mail delivery, packages being left on top of mailboxes versus being carried to front doors that may have a covering, instances of receiving neighbors’ mail or vice versa – neighbors receiving their mail – on a semiregular basis, as well as multiple days per week of mail going undelivered.

Residents began reaching out to the Herald about their concerns last summer. They have also been in contact with their congressional leaders.

The offices of U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert and Sen. Michael Bennet said they are aware of mail delivery problems in Colorado and the Durango area.

“At the very end of October and into the first few days of November, we heard about a specific service issue in Durango, which we immediately escalated on behalf of the local residents to the USPS District Office for Colorado and Wyoming,” said an aide for Bennet.

A spokesman for Boebert said “elderly folks and veterans” have not been receiving their medicine and critical documents on time. He said Boebert has sent letters to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, but has yet to receive a “firm response.”

“This issue is incredibly concerning and has her full attention,” the spokesman said. “The Durango post office location complaints mostly center on staffing issues, including staff attitude and a lack of upper management consistency and accountability.”

Susan Beller picks up her mail on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, in front of her Durango home. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The Durango postmaster did not respond to a request for comment for this article. He instead forwarded the media inquiry to a regional spokesman.

Susan Beller, who has lived in Durango for 33 years and on Clovis Drive since 2000, said mail delivery became sporadic in late October and early November. She filed a complaint with the Postal Service, and a day later someone returned her call to explain “we’re very backed up.”

The caller assured Beller she would receive mail later that day, “and we didn’t get it,” Beller said.

“It’s not just me,” she said. “There’s a whole thread on Nextdoor … with various people saying they’ve been missing their mail.”

Beller said she signed up for USPS Informed Delivery, which tells her which mail items and packages to expect each day. That system has been spot on, she said, so she knows when mail delivery doesn’t happen on her route.

She said this is the first time mail delivery has been sporadic. It has been happening since September, she said.

Beller said she realizes the U.S. Postal Service has faced funding challenges and the Durango office struggles to fill positions.

In August, the agency announced quarterly losses of $1.7 billion. The USPS is supposed to be financially self-sufficient, meaning it shouldn’t need taxpayer money to cover expenses.

Yet, the agency’s revenues haven’t covered its expenses for more than 15 years. It is largely a problem with a decline in volume of sales, as a greater percentage of the U.S. population relies on digital communications like email and social media.

“But even so, my feeling is, couldn’t they offer higher wages or sign-on bonuses, try to get good employees in?” Beller said. “Expand their budget. … It used to be a good place to work.”

Beller is not alone in her complaints.

Earlier this month, the Herald asked readers via a Facebook post to describe their issues with mail delivery. More than two dozen people responded via email and by commenting under the post.

  • “Understaffed! Don’t have enough carriers to run routes everyday,” said Brianna Shock. “So I’m guessing some routes get run one day and other routes another day or just not at all. It’s nationwide.”
  • “I live at Tamarin Square apartments here in Durango on 3rd ave and 14th street,” said Diane Weidinger. “We have not received mail on a Saturday for at least the last 2 months, then other days it doesn’t arrive until evening, when all along it had been arriving at 10 a.m. Very frustrating.”
  • “We have a constant problem of either no mail or we receive our neighbor’s mail and they get ours (weekly),” said Steve Hudson. “Once the outgoing mail from one day was found on the ground in the mud.”
  • “Just made a stop by the post office last night to find out what the heck was going on,” said Jessica May. “I had to write a note on receipt paper describing what was wrong, so it could be given to the supervisor. Got nowhere, have no answers, frustrated.”
Boxes piled on the floor

Residents in Edgemont Highlands northeast of Durango said the post office quit delivering mail on a daily basis about four weeks ago. About the same time, packages began arriving sporadically.

Packages used to be put into lockers, with a locker key left in individual mailboxes. If a package was too big for a locker, it would be delivered to someone’s front door or left in the mailroom. Now, all USPS packages are left in the subdivision’s mailroom, strewn about the floor.

Here is the mailroom in the Edgemont Highlands subdivision northeast of Durango. Residents said U.S. Postal Service packages arrive sporadically and are piled in the subdivision’s mailroom, strewn across the floor. (Courtesy)

A resident, who declined to give her name for fear of reprisal, said her husband went to the post office to find out what was happening and was informed the post office no longer had a regular carrier for their route.

An employee told the woman’s husband the post office is down about 15 employees. The woman said Edgemont Highlands had a reliable mail carrier for about two years, but that person left four to six weeks ago.

“She probably went to work for UPS,” the woman said. “They probably pay better.”

Leah Karotkin, who lives in the subdivision, said mail delivery has been problematic for many years, with the exception of a few good stints. She has raised concerns with former congressional leaders Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, not to mention Bennet and Boebert, “but nothing ever happened.”

She noted that this week a “very nice” mail carrier delivered a package to her front door, an unusual gesture of care and diligence.

“I very much appreciated the carrier bringing the package,” Karotkin said. “I think most of the carriers try to do their best.”

Annabella Sherman, who lives on Hillcrest Drive in Durango, said “a lot” of her handwritten letters go undelivered.

“You’d think they would at least come back to me since I put the return address on there, but they just seem to disappear,” she said. “No idea where they end up. It’s very sad because I keep in touch with friends and family via handwritten letters.”

Teresa Lashley, who lives on West Park Avenue in Durango, said mail delivery gets skipped once or twice a week, for example, on Wednesdays and Fridays. The problem has been going on for about four weeks.

“It’s never the same days,” she said. “ … I would be fine with a decreased mail delivery schedule as long as they told us what is going on.”

Lashley said she still relies on the U.S. Postal Service for prescription drugs from Express Scripts. When the mail does show up, it can be early in the morning or as late as 7 p.m., she said. Earlier this week, so much mail had piled up from being undelivered that the USPS delivered it to her front porch in a plastic crate.

She suspects labor problems are to blame for the hiccups.

“It’s hard to live in Durango anymore and afford a house to live here and have a job like that,” she said.


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