Mail delivery policy changes

Rural customers must leave mailboxes open in wake of recent bombings

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— Steamboat Springs Postmaster Bill Butler on Tuesday ordered his postal carriers not to deliver mail to any rural mailbox in Routt County that does not have its door open.

The policy is being implemented statewide following a rash of pipe bombs across the country, including one found Monday in Colorado.

Late Tuesday, officials arrested 21-year-old Luke J. Helder of Pine Island, Minn., in connection with the bombings. He was taken into custody outside of Reno, Nev., after leading authorities on a 40-mile chase that reached speeds of 100 mph.

An estimated 1,000 Routt County residents have rural mailboxes. The policy does not include cluster mailboxes in Steamboat Springs.

"I truly apologize for the inconvenience," Butler said. "But I would rather cause inconvenience than have to attend someone's funeral."

Since last Friday, 18 pipe bombs have been placed in rural mailboxes across the Midwest, Colorado and Texas.

Authorities found a pipe bomb Monday in a mailbox in Salida. The most recent case occurred in Amarillo, Texas, when a similar bomb was found in a rural mailbox.

The wave started on Friday when six people were injured by mailbox explosives in Illinois and Iowa. By Sunday, eight bombs had been found in the two states, along with eight more that were discovered in rural areas of Nebraska.

Authorities suspect all the cases are connected because the pipe bombs are all similar in design three-quarter-inch steel pipes attached to 9-volt batteries. Authorities suspect they are triggered when touched or moved.

Each pipe bomb also came attached with anti-government notes that warned, "More 'attention getters' are on the way."

Butler called the incidents a "heinous and terrible act."

Because of what happened between Friday and Sunday, state postal officials began working on a policy to institute statewide, Butler said.

The postal service's decision not to deliver mail to rural mailboxes that have doors shut arrived in Steamboat Springs Monday evening.

On Tuesday morning after meeting with Butler, 10 carriers went out into the field delivering mail on eight delivery routes.

"The carriers are concerned by what is going on," Butler said. "But they understand."

Butler estimates that there are 1,000 rural mailboxes in the county, about a fourth of the 3,900 boxes to which mail is delivered in the county. Post office boxes are not included in that total.

Butler hopes residents who live on rural county roads and in areas that include Clark and Stagecoach will cooperate with the open-door mailbox policy.

"Residents can remove the door, tape it open or simply leave it open," he said. "Carriers have been ordered not to touch any mailbox that is not open."

Mail that is not delivered will be returned to the post office and a note explaining the reason will be attached. Carriers will attempt to deliver the mail again the next day.

"We are asking that customers be patient with us," Butler said. "All we can do is the best we can to deliver the mail. But our goal is to have everybody go home safely at night. We are not going to take any chances."

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