We have been having days in Soldotna where it seemed we did not get our mail delivered. When I put something out to be picked up and it was still there at ten P.M. on Monday. I decided to find out what was up. I knew we had recently lost our beloved whistling mailman to retirement, but that was all I knew.
I spoke with Hector Rivera, the Postmaster here in Soldotna about the mail situation in our community and Alaska. The postal service as everyone already knows is planning cut backs and there is the discussion of cutting service on Saturdays, they also intend to close non-profitable post offices while combining some. That means the Kenai and Soldotna post offices may be combined with all carriers most likely working out of Soldotna. They are essentially not filling the vacant spots to decrease the workforce. The whole of Alaska is one postal district and they are only allowed to use a total of 10% temporary employees for the whole district. Their district manager has rotated staff so different post offices get extra help at varying times. The USPS rather than hire more staff is paying lots of overtime.
They are now short two carriers in Soldotna with the recent retirement of one carrier and one temporary staff on maternity leave. Many days they have only three carriers for five routes. They also have to work vacations in. The carriers are all working overtime up to twelve hours a day to try and get the mail delivered. They have about forty hours worth of mail delivery per day here in Soldotna and if only three carriers are available on a given day they have thirty-six hours of delivery, four hours short, with three carriers working twelve hours each (The hours with overtime equal 4.5 carriers when 5 are needed in other words.). If it is Monday or a day after a holiday like next Tuesday they have extra mail to deliver. That means next Tuesday some people will not get mail. Last Monday over 200 homes did not get mail delivered even with the carriers working twelve hours.
When the carriers are doing extra routes they also leave the post office later than normal because they have to prepare two routes to be delivered instead of one, so this sets all the usual times people receive their mail back. Then on top of that a carrier who is unfamiliar with the extra routes they are doing will be slower than the regular staff. The staff at the Alaska District Office was decreased significantly so the local offices have less help to fall back on when they need an extra hand or technical advice.
I was impressed with Mr. Rivera, he was a surprise to me. He has a lot of knowledge about what is happening with the USPS, cares about the carriers and the quality of mail delivery for the public. I was expecting the usual Alaska incompetence to be the problem and anticipated leaving a voice mail only to be ignored. One reason for my expectations were negative post office experiences in Nome where my mail was opened by a post office employee and from the old Postmaster in Homer who thought my uterus made me too stupid to figure out how to use a key when they had given me the wrong key to my post box. Mr. Rivera answered the phone right away and cheerfully described the situation for me. He went to Capital Hill in March and has been lobbying our legislators to protect our mail service. I just hope they are listening to him. The USPS is especially important here in rural Alaska where we have to order so many of the things we need from other places. It is also very important for the elderly who may not use modern technology for communication to keep in touch with family and friends.
Venting anger at carriers does not help and whenever they have to stop and explain why they are late or mail was not delivered the day before that may mean a couple less deliveries they can make that day. They are working their butts off in a very trying situation. I tried to think of what I could do to help and this post was my best solution besides walking my mail to be sent to the post office everyday when I go for a walk.
Update: KTVA has a report on their website featuring Senator Murkowski‘s anger about the USPS. They have cut distribution centers and are even moving the handling of western mail to a Denver Colorado distribution center. These decisions will delay our mail and as we all know it takes way longer to get mail here than in the lower 48. Shipping mail from Alaska to be received in another part of the state all the way to Colorado, then back to Alaska is insane. This will cause not just delays, but way more damage to materials shipped.
The people of Alaska must get involved and start voicing their opinions about the special needs for frequent efficient mail service in Alaska. Please contact Senator Murkowski, Senator Begich and Representative Don Young.
D.C. phone. (202) 224 - 3004
Anchorage phone. (907) 271 - 5915
Juneau phone. (907) 586 - 7700
Kenai (907) 283 - 4000
D.C. phone 202-224-6665
Anchorage phone 907-271-3735
Kenai phone 907-283-5808
D.C. phone (202) 225-5765
Anchorage phone (907) 271-5978
Juneau phone (907) 586-7400
Kenai phone T (907) 283-7701