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‘Postal Way’ needs a good fixing, by someone

It’s obvious where potholes are forming on the narrow “Postal Way,” even when covered by ice. (Action Line)

Dear Action Line: The worst paved street in Durango is the drive-through to deposit mail in the outdoor mailbox at the downtown post office. The street has no name but it runs parallel to Narrow Gauge Avenue on the post office side of the tracks. This street, that I call Postal Way, is a persistent parade of preposterous pernicious potholes. In my 3½ decades as a resident of Durango it has never been properly repaired or maintained. A Band-Aid approach for filling these potholes has been used over and over again with predictably pitiful results. My Aunt Anne always said: “Do a job, big or small, do it right or not at all.” Is the city or the post office responsible for the maintenance of this street and how can we get them to do a more perfect job? – Perpetually Perturbed

See, the strip of land between the train tracks and post office is city property. (Courtesy of La Plata County)

Dear Perturbed: This was either a really good question, or a mean trick. Each time Action Line thought the answer was within grasp, it slipped away.

It was like climbing a mountain with several false summits, or herding the last of the cattle only to find others still up on the hillside, or finishing a huge batch of dishes only to discover the greasy and charred indoor grill hadn’t been washed yet.

Catching the drift?

It was exhausting.

Action Line could give you the answer right away, but thinks you should understand the process, and experience the same suspense the writer did. We’re up to 49 emails now on this question. But it appears that action might be coming.

It quickly became obvious that the city, the Postal Service and the county were not in agreement of the answer.

The city was very convinced it was the Postal Service’s road.

“I know there has been some confusion in the past regarding who is responsible for the maintenance of this roadway,” said Joey Medina, operations manager for Durango’s Public Works Department. “The maintenance of this roadway is the responsibility of the post office.”

There. We’re done, right? But Action Line had to be thorough and go do a little more snooping. And, unfortunately, found that La Plata County’s Geographical Information System site showed the little strip between Narrow Gauge Avenue and the post office belonged to the city.

“According to the La Plata County Assessor database the account for this land is … owned by the city of Durango,” concurred Carrie Woodson, county assessor. Land and other information the assessor uses are public record and are available on the county’s website.

Not that it matters too much to the county who owns this strip, at least as far as tax purposes: Action Line asked, and Woodson answered that the city and federal governments are exempt from property tax.

Meanwhile, co-investigator Perturbed (who prefers to be called “Watson”) said that Postal Service workers conferred and reported they believed that the city was in charge of maintenance. Action Line (“Sherlock”) contacted James Boxrud, Postal Service representative in Strategic Communications in Denver, who said he could do some checking.

Oh wait. No, looks like that strip of land is Postal Service property. (Courtesy of city of Durango)

Action Line kept digging. Although current downtown Postal Service managers proved elusive, a former high-up Postal Service dude in Durango who didn’t want his name used offered this tidbit:

“I believe it to be post office property. It was always treated like it was,” he said.

He noted that in 1992 the Postal Service briefly changed the direction of “Postal Way.” Imagine having to somehow slide over in your vehicle to drop off your letters out the passenger side. As Morley Ballantine, former Herald editor and chairman of the board, wrote in April 1992:

“The situation at the moment looks like the creation of second-graders, or perhaps a committee.”

The high-up dude said that subsequently to the direction change, an employee was hit by the train. The Herald, of course, wrote a story about the incident, and quoted former city officials who were critical of the change. “They never intended two alleys to run different directions,” the high-up source said. “Postal Way” was changed back to how it is now.

Just as Action Line was putting this column to bed with the mystery unsolved came a response from the Postal Service.

“It has been determined that we do own the property in question,” Boxrud said. “The Postal Service has assigned repairs to a contractor and hopefully it will be repaired and looking good soon.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention so we can resolve.”

Sherlock and Watson will now take some well-deserved Earl Grey tea, Watson’s preferably with cream, thank you.

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Note to Postal Service contractor: Might be a few weeks before the ice melts on Postal Way.