LACONIA — Postal managers reacting to complaints about poor mail delivery are reviewing staffing levels, delivery methods and the types of vehicles used, according to Steve Doherty, the United States Postal Service’s strategic communications specialist for the Northeast Area.
“I’ve spoken with multiple postal managers … who oversee the New Hampshire delivery area and showed them the letters you’ve published,” Doherty wrote in an email to The Laconia Daily Sun. He said postal officials are looking “to insure that we have the best resources in place to provide first-class service to our Gunstock area customers.”
The Sun has received several letters in recent weeks — many of them from Gilford — about missed deliveries, delayed mail and non-delivery. Other writers have defended the mail carriers, saying they are overworked and underpaid.
Gerry Tweedie of Laconia, a union steward who also is familiar with the ongoing collective bargaining at United Parcel Service, said UPS is experiencing the same issues of “being overworked and stretched way to thin” due to “unrealistic work loads.”
In defending the postal workers, Tweedie said the long work hours, coupled with dwindling pay and cuts to pensions and benefits, created a “perfect storm” for the U.S. Postal Service.
“At the very least, our government needs to invest back into the post office with new high-speed sorting technologies and logistics improvements,” he wrote.
The postal service has experienced decreased revenue as email and instant messaging replaced traditional first-class mail, and it has tried to fill the gap with other business partnerships, notably the weekend delivery of Amazon packages. That has required hiring additional part-time help, but despite the low unemployment rate in New Hampshire, the postal service has had difficulty filling the positions.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office says the postal service’s “mission of providing prompt, reliable, and efficient universal services to the public is at risk due to its poor financial condition.”
The postal service has experienced 10 consecutive fiscal years of net losses totaling more than $60 billion, and it has reached its statutory limit on borrowing from the U.S. Treasury, with a debt of $15 billion.
“Consequently, USPS has been designated as high risk because its business model is not viable as it cannot fund its current level of services, operations, and financial obligations from its revenues and urgently needs to restructure to reflect changes in mail volume, revenue, and use of the mail,” the GAO states. “Congress and USPS need to reach agreement on a comprehensive package of actions to achieve sustainable financial viability.”
Customers in Gilford have been particularly critical of the delivery service, handled out of the Laconia office. Denise Burke said there has been no problem with the regular carriers, but the alternates who fill in have provided dismal service.
“We’ve been told that it’s too dark … too cold … too icy … or that our mail box is blocked (which is a lie because I can prove that they never even came down the road),” she wrote. “One mail carrier actually went home because she was “too tired.”
Contacted on Monday, Burke said the problems still persist. She received no mail or packages on Friday, so her husband had to go the post office on Saturday to pick up two days’ worth of mail.
Burke said she has a large plastic bin, clearly marked for packages, next to her front doorstep, but a package was left next to it, out in the rain, without any protective covering.
“My stuff was not ruined, but wet,” she said.
Doherty said the postal service encourages any customers experiencing delivery issues to speak to their local postmaster. “They can also reach out to our Customer Care Center at 1-800-332-0317 or online at usps.com to have their issue elevated beyond the local level,” he said.
Norman Silber of Gilford said he left a message for the Laconia postmaster last week and still has not received a callback.
“He never returned my call, and I sent formal complaints to our two U.S. senators, and they both said they’re contacting the postal service on my behalf,” Silber said. “I’ve not heard from anybody — locally, regionally, or nationally — in the postal service.”
He added that he gets newspapers delivered every day. “If the person who delivers newspapers in the morning can make it up here in a private car, why can’t they come in their Jeep or whatever?” he asked.