Steamboat Springs Some Steamboat residents believe the community is in for a rude awakening. Rude or not, the Steamboat branch of the U.S. Postal Service is initiating some changes that at least one community organization believes are taking away from the city's small town feel.
After years of selling poppies from the post office as a fund-raiser, the Ladies' Auxiliary was told to go elsewhere this year. Holding the sale without clearing it with postal officials ahead of time is illegal, under rules that are being enforced by the local post office's new postmaster.
"Everybody keeps trying to keep our town small and laid back, but every time we lose a little bit of that character well, we lose a little bit. And it's gone and it's not coming back," Steamboat resident Betty Kemry said.
Last week Kemry, who has been selling poppies for the Ladies' Auxiliary longer than even she can remember and for at least 16 years was asked to pack up her things and move.
"The woman from the post office told us it was unlawful because the post office is a federal building," Kemry said. "She was very apologetic and told us we could use the sidewalk, but it was raining, so we went to Safeway. It just shook us up for a few minutes. It was such a happy day, and then all of a sudden we had to leave. We've been selling poppies at the post office forever."
"It really caught us off guard," Ladies' Auxiliary President Val Kiniston said. "We don't fully understand why the ladies were asked to leave. We've done this for years. It's not like we were selling something political or something for profit. We just don't understand."
Each year the Ladies' Auxiliary, which supports local veterans and performs other charitable work, like raising funds for cancer research, sells poppies as a fund-raiser.
"All the funds go to the club, which supports charities and community organizations and events," Kiniston said.
"I guess whenever there are new leaders, there are going to be changes," Kemry said.
Kemry is referring to Steamboat Springs' new postmaster, William Butler. Butler recently moved to Steamboat from the small town of Lakeside, Ariz. He has worked in the Postal Service for 30 years, and has been a postmaster for 11 years, he said.
"What has been going on here for 16 years, or however long, has been illegal," Butler said, referring to the poppy-sales.
Butler cites the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 39, chapter 1, part 232 to support his claim. The code explains that soliciting, electioneering, collecting debts, vending and advertising on postal property is prohibited. The same code also says, however, that commercial and non-profit activities can take place on postal property if they are under contract with the Postal Service ahead of time.
"The poppies could have been sold at the post office if we'd worked out a legal agreement prior to the event," Butler said. "I myself have been a member of the VFW for 10 years, and have been in the service for 24 years. Of course I support what the Ladies' Auxiliary was trying to do."
Butler said he also understands residents' sentiments regarding the "small-town feel" of previous years.
"Lakeside, where I moved from, is even smaller than Steamboat. People wanted to do this sort of thing all the time and they'd just call me up and let me know. I'd help guide them through the methodology to make it legal," he said.
Butler has made other changes as well. Residents may notice new signs in the downtown post office that prohibit postal workers from handing residents their mail over the counter.
"Lots of customers have complained. But workers were spending three or four hours of labor time every day just retrieving mail from peoples' P.O. boxes we just couldn't afford to keep the practice going," Butler explained.
Butler said that the regulations have been in place for many years, but are just now being enforced to protect postal workers.
If postal workers were caught ignoring these codes, they wouldn't be able to get good jobs anywhere, he said.
This year, the Ladies' Auxiliary sold poppies from Safeway instead of the post office, but didn't quite clear the $481 they made selling from the post office last year..
"We made $288," member Evelyn Monger said. "I thought it was very successful. This was less money than we usually make, but that's OK."
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