Sunday deliveries help overcome US Postal Service shortfalls

On a given Sunday, the United States Postal Service delivers 300 packages in Gilford and Laconia, and has been doing so for about a year.
“The customers love it,” said Michael Quinn, officer in charge of the Laconia Post Office.
Just a few years ago, seeing a decline in first-class mail as customers turned to email, instant messaging, and social media for regular communications, the postal service was looking to restrict mail delivery to five days a week, eliminating Saturday deliveries. Now it delivers Express Mail and packages seven days a week, although not all locations handle the Sunday mail. The Laconia Post Office is the distribution center for Gilford and Laconia, Quinn said.
Steve Doherty, USPS communications specialist, said the internet age has not only transformed the way people purchase products, it has shifted their mail habits. That led Former Postmaster General Patrick Donahue to suggest eliminating Saturday deliveries as a cost-saving measure, estimating that it would save as much as $3 billion a year.
Postal unions campaigned against cuts, saying it would deny necessary services to the elderly and rural residents, and members of Congress blocked the plan, passing legislation that required service at least equal to what was offered in 1984.
Yet the postal service was seeing another trend that offered a way to make up some of that lost first-class revenue. Many online retail companies were promising premium delivery in one day.
“It was what our customers were looking for,” Doherty said. “The business need was there, and we stepped up.”
Even before Donahue’s proposal to reduce Saturday delivery, was approaching the postal service about a partnership to deliver packages on Sundays and holidays. In 2013, it announced a pilot project to have the postal service make Sunday package deliveries in Los Angeles and New York, gradually expanding to other cities through a five-year contract.
“We were already delivering Express Mail on Sundays,” Doherty said, noting that carriers had been making all-weekend deliveries around the holidays for at least a decade in order to keep up with the Christmas rush. “But offering Sunday deliveries year-round has evolved more recently.”
While first-class mail has continued to decline, Doherty said, “Our business has been shifting with the boom of online retailers, and we’ve been adapting our business model to suit that.”
“There were challenges, I suppose,” Quinn said, noting that he was not there when Laconia began delivering packages on Sundays. “With any new process, it takes a while to work out the bugs, but it was invisible to our customers.”
Postal workers remain divided on the issue of Sunday mail deliveries, some seeing it as an opportunity to make extra money and others seeing it as an intrusion into their weekends.
Lakes Region postal workers did not want to go on the record with their views, referring inquiries to Doherty or Quinn. Off the record, however, some cited the additional sorting required for Sunday package delivery as a negative and said they are glad that job currently falls to the Laconia Post Office.
Quinn said he has a temporary clerk who sorts the Sunday packages, while subs — part-time or contracted workers — handle the deliveries.
“We have hired some just to work on Sundays,” Quinn said. “Some people want to earn extra money.”
Doherty also said many of the carriers are happy doing Sunday work because it provides flexibility.
A July 14 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by Josh Sandbulte, whose money-management firm owns FedEx stock, claimed that the USPS’ fixed costs have risen faster than the income from package delivery and he argued that first-class mail is subsidizing Amazon package delivery.
Doherty responded, “If it wasn’t profitable, we wouldn’t be doing it.”
He said Amazon, while a major player, is not the only company that uses the postal service for Sunday deliveries. He said there are a number of ways that retailers can get special rates, including by presorting, getting their product close to the delivery point, and shipping by volume, “but that’s across the board to any of our shippers. The more sorting you do, the cheaper it is.”
He did acknowledge that “A lot more money goes into the processing and packaging of deliveries,” but he said, “Each of our products is designed to stand on its own, as far as profitability.”
“We’ve had a shift away from full-time to a flexible work force, where their typical week may be Thursday through Monday, so no overtime costs are associated with Sunday deliveries,” he said. “When you look at the hours, some people find it suits their personal life. It’s not for everyone, obviously, but finding people to work on Sundays has not been a problem.”
Quinn said Laconia is fully staffed right now, but said anyone who wants to work Sundays should apply at
As to customers, Doherty said, “Years ago, people didn’t expect Sunday delivery. Now they want it right away, and we’re adapting.
“Doing away with six-day delivery and going to five days was a thought at one time, but with this new era of overnight packaging, I don’t foresee that coming back up as a suggestion. I don’t think the public was generally opposed to the elimination of Saturday mail deliveries, but when you put packages into it, it’s a different story. That shifts our dynamic away from the thought of five-day delivery,” Doherty said.

Laconia Police Log 6/13-July 6

LACONIA — The Laconia Police Department responded to 1,260 calls between June 12 and July 5, including 28 involving thefts, 10 involving assaults and nine involving drugs.

A total of 39 people were arrested, including:

June 12

Travis M. Vachon, 29, of 157 Fisher Hill Road, Concord, on a charge of criminal trespass; Bethanie Mazzaglia, of 22 Windsong Place, Meredith, on a charge of default or breach of bail conditions; Paul M. Doherty, 53, a transient, on a charge of criminal trespassing.

June 13

Shane Bartlett, 40, of 176 Reservoir Road, on a charge of driving under the influence; Shirley A. Prescott, 48, a transient on a charge of drinking in public; Deborah Sterl, 53, a transient, on a charge of drinking in public; Lorene B. Ellis, 45, of 61 Pine Crest Drive, Gilford, on a charge of driving under the influence; Nicole M. Sousa, 28, of 12 Pleasant St., Apt. 21, on a bench warrant.

June 14

Justin Lindquist, 26, of 53 Dream Hill Terrace, Farmington, on a charge of driving after suspension; Kelly Hagan Gorgas, 27, of 40 Hillside Drive, Apt. 24, Gilford, on a bench warrant and a charge of driving after suspension.

June 16

Jessica M. Polito, 28, of 480 Main St., Apt. 300, on charges of simple assault, disorderly conduct, criminal threatening.

June 17

James John Cook, 26, of 21 Acadeemy Square, on a charge of operating without a valid license; Casey R. Brown, 25, 12 Winter Street, Apt. 0, on a bench warrant; Christopher J. Pise, 530 York Ave., Apt. 6, Pawtucket, N.J., on a charge of possession of controlled drugs.

June 18

Ryanne McCann, 30, of 7 Gillis St., Nashua, on a charge of driving after revocation or suspension; Melinda A. Bastraw, 46, of 149 Valley St., Apt. 2, on a warrant; Seth M. Houston, 35, of 103 Blueberry Lane, Apt. 83, on charges of domestic violence; Shannon L. Gauthier, 39, of 41A Gilford Ave., on a bench warrant; Hugo Rodriguez, 53, a transient, on charges of criminal threatening and simple assault.

June 19

Shane McCarthy, 33, a transient, on a warrant.

June 22

Joshua D. Hunter, 22, a transient, on a bench warrant; Shane Michael Duval, 29, of 16 Kimball Road, Gilford, on warrants.

June 23

Albert W. Jenna, 60, of 43 High St., Apt. 1, on a charge of driving under the influence.

June 24

Chad Brooks, 19, of 20 Jewett St., Apt. 3, on a bench warrant.

June 25

John Arthur Cathcart, 52, a transient, on a bench warrant; Caleb A. Young, 23, of 20 Cleveland Place, Apt. 5, on a warrant; Morgan R. Thibeault, 23, of 49 Union Road, Belmont, on charges of domestic violence; Jay Hirst Plyler, 55, of 15 Nestledown Drive, Apt. C, on a charge of violation of a protective order.

June 26

Aaron R. Hickey, 34, of 211 Intervale Road, on a charge of driving under the influence.

June 27

Derek Joseph Hilliard, 29, of 10 Valley Street, on charges of reckless conduct and placing another in danger.

June 28

Ronald H. Steele III, 23, a transient, on charges of domestic violence (violation of a protective order) and default or breach of bail conditions; Marcus James Burke, 39, of 123 Union Ave., Apt. 9, on charges of possession of controlled drugs and possession of narcotic drugs.

June 29

Timothy E. Peavey, 57, a transient, on a bench warrant.

June 30

Jeremiah Paul Valton, 39, a transient, on a bench warrant.

July 2

Robert Kenneth Kelly, 36, of 322 South Main St., Apt. B, on a charge of driving after suspension; Sanja Pesa, 28, of 314 Union Ave., Apt. 2, on a bench warrant.

July 3

Benjamin A. Ricks, 35, a transient, on charges of posession of controlled/narcotic drugs; Jared Riley, 34, a transient, on charges of possession of controlled/narcotic drugs; Nicole A. Manley, 35, of 24 Province St., on a charge of criminal trespass; Richard A. Guidi Jr., 18, of 11B Jewett St., on a bench warrant.

July 4

Daniel Lee Hill Jr., 32, of 1 Mile Hill Road, Belmont, on a bench warrant and a charge of driving after suspension.

July 5

Timothy E. Peavey, 57, a transient, on charges of aggravated driving while intoicated and driving after suspension; Thomas Henry Leblanc, 43, of 62 Maple St., Apt. 2, Putnam, Conn., on charges of driving under the influence and resisting arrest.


It's been a berry good year



Cindy Duchin has been growing strawberries in North Sandwich for 20 years and said this year's crop was "incredible." (Courtesy photo)

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Rebecca Green has been working on her blueberry bushes since there was still snow on the ground, and has been rewarded with marble-sized berries. At right. (Courtesy)

It's been a good year for all kinds of berries, said Kelley McAdam of the UNH Cooperative Extension Service.

She said that a rainy spring and summer have produced a plentiful crop of strawberries and blueberries in New Hampshire after production fell during drought conditions last year.

"Strawberry growers all over the state reported better than average crops this spring. And we're seeing a blueberry crop that is about a week later than usual, but is very bountiful with lots of big berries,'' said McAdam.

Just how much difference can a year make? A lot. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the 2016 season show the yield of pounds of blueberries per acre in New Hampshire declined to 1,650, compared to 2,600 in the previous year.

Lily Behn, who works at Stone Brook Hill Farm on Glidden Road in Gilford, said that there is an outstanding crop of high bush blueberries at the farm. “Berries are plentiful this year after a late start because it was so cold this spring. And in recent days, with lots of sun, they're ripening very fast.”

It's a pick-your own operation with pre-picked pints available for $3.50.

The mature, high bush blueberries at Green Acres Berries in New Hampton began to ripen in mid-July and are bursting with flavor, said Rebecca Green. Her 1,000 no-spray blueberry bushes are open to "pick your own" customers. She also has a supply of pre-picked for those not wanting to venture into the field, which sits atop Donkin Hill off Route 132, facing west, with a commanding view of surrounding forest and hills.  

"I can't believe how big this crop is, and how big the berries are; they seem like the size of small grapes," said Green, who is new at the life of a farmer.

She and her husband purchased the farm from the longtime owner early this year and moved to the area from Oklahoma City. Their grown children are beginning careers in the Northeast, so the couple decided to make the move after falling in love with the property at 90 Donkin Hill Road. The former dairy farm has rolling pastures and forest land bound by historic rock walls and a stream. It is crossed by what used to be a carriage road.

The Green family has enjoyed days picking berries from the time the children were small.

"We've just always loved being out in a beautiful field on a sunny day, picking fruit," Green said. "My youngest, Zachary, would pick some for his bucket, but probably ended up putting more right in his mouth."

At her new farm, she pruned overgrown bushes when they were dormant and snow was on the ground. Then she pulled weeds and vines in the early spring. When the grass started to grow, she mowed for days on end. Her work seems to have paid off. Green is delighted with what she is seeing this summer.

"We were waiting and waiting, anticipating, and then it seemed like the berries went from green to blue in the course of a few days. We opened the field to the public and the people who have come have been delighted that we're maintaining the U-pick operation," she said. "A lot of the customers have come here for years with their families, have great memories of this place and just really love the taste of these berries."

Year-to-date rainfall in the Lakes Region is about 4 inches above average, and this has slowed some agricultural operations, even making it hard to cut and bale hay, but the rain seems to have been good for the berries.

Carl Majewski, food and agriculture specialist for the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, said the natural sugars that make berries sweet are produced through photosynthesis, which requires sunshine, but a rainy summer doesn't seem to affect the sweetness.

"A ripe berry is a ripe berry," he said. "They need the moisture from the rain." 

However, too much rain can be a problem, promoting a fungus that can lead to a condition known as mummy berry, which can cause berries to shrivel.

"We saw a little mummy berry this year, but thankfully it wasn't bad," Green said. "All in all, it seems like a pretty good year. I've talked to other growers and farm stand operators, and this seems like a bumper crop. We just want to make sure it all gets picked."

One of the largest operations in the state is Norland Berries on North Barnstead Road in Barnstead, which has 13 acres of blueberry plants and was formerly owned by the Locke family. Now owned by the Norris family, its web site advertises prices of $2.50 a pound or $3.50 a pint with 10 pounds of frozen berries going for $30.

It's also a good year for raspberries according to Nathan Smith of Smith Farm Stand on Sleeper Hill Road in Gilford, who says his three-quarter acres of raspberry bushes usually yield around 3,000 pints a year and he's certain he'll hit or exceed that level this year.

He said that this year's crop is on the canes which grew last summer and are now brown while the green canes are those which will produce next year's crop.

He also has high bush blueberries which are now ripe and says that he wishes he had put in more of them when he planted them about 20 years ago because they're easier to take care of than strawberries, which he raised until 2010, but dropped because they are too labor intensive for his small family operation.

“We still get about 200 calls a year from people asking when we'll have pick-your-own strawberries,” said Smith.

Cindy Duchin of North Sandwich, who raises both strawberries and blueberries, said that she's been raising strawberries ever since she was 12 years old and growing up in Swanzey.

She's been growing them in Sandwich the last 20 years and says that this year's crop was “incredible.”

Like most growers, she replaces her plants every two years as they drop in productivity after sending out runners which produce well in the second year. This year she has the best of both worlds as the space between her 40 foot rows were pretty wide and her husband tilled the space where the older plants were located to put in new plants.

“It worked out wonderfully,” she said.

She said that the garden area where she grows both strawberries and blueberries is now fenced after having been invaded several years ago by a bear, who was spotted devouring everything in sight in the field by a neighbor.

Duchin used to bring her strawberries to the North Sandwich store, which is now closed, to sell. She says loyal customers now come to her home to get their berries.

Duchin has abut 70 high bush blueberry plants which she covers with netting to keep away the birds and says this year's crop is also excellent.

Also concerned about the birds is Todd Lemieux of Rogers Road in Belmont, who grows raspberries and also has two cherry trees which are producing a bumper crop.

“I've seen a Coopers Hawk eyeing the cherries,” he says. The two trees, which produce small, tart cherries used in making cherry pies, are very productive this year although reaching their peak later than usual.

“Most years they're done by the 4th of July. It's about two weeks later than that this year and we only have something like a 10-day window to harvest them,” says Lemieux, who estimates that the trees produce around 7,000 cherries.

He has 100 raspberry plants, all on trellises, which are producing a large crop of heritage raspberries. He says that the first raspberry harvest lasts around three weeks and that after a two-week break he'll have a second harvest.


Ethan and Megan Tilton came all the way from Moultonborough to pick raspberries at Smith Farm Stand in Gilford. (Roger Amsden photo)