Post office paradox

Expanded service brings end to 'best-kept secret': free P.O. boxes

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Denise Turner sorts mail Thursday while working her mail delivery route on Kelhi Court in the Fish Creek Falls Road area. Turner's route consists of 40 stops at cluster boxes servicing 470 customers. Cluster boxes will become more prevalent in Steamboat in the next couple of years - and free post office boxes are going the way of the dinosaur.

— One of the "best-kept secrets" in town has come to an end.

For at least the past two years, some Steamboat Springs residents have received free mail service. But Frank Murphy, postmaster at the Steamboat Springs Post Office on Lincoln Avenue, said Thursday that because local postal service now offers home delivery to the entire city as well as outlying areas, a federal loophole that allowed some residents to receive free post office boxes no longer applies in Steamboat.

Previously, residents who could not be serviced with home delivery could apply at the post office for a free box through a federal post office regulation used in rural areas, including several Colorado mountain towns. Longtime Steamboat resident Van Fletcher said he noticed the regulation "two or three years ago," and after asking about it at the Steamboat Springs Post Office, was told he could apply for a free postal box.

"That was the world's best-keep secret - you only knew about it by word-of-mouth," Fletcher said this week.

But because Steamboat's postal service is now able to "deliver everywhere," Murphy said, Fletcher and other residents will have to cough up at least $26 a year for a post office box.

But the problem, raised by Fletcher and acknowledged by Murphy, is that cluster boxes are not available everywhere in Steamboat - especially in parts of Old Town. So although postal service workers are "able" to deliver everywhere, delivery is not possible in some areas until a cluster box is installed.

"I just think it's kind of ridiculous and illogical," Fletcher said. "In (Murphy's) mind, he is offering home delivery. In my mind, I have no opportunity but to keep the post office box."

A cluster box is one unit containing multiple post office boxes. Murphy said there are at least 400 cluster boxes in Steamboat, often at townhome or condominium complexes.

Murphy said he is working with Steamboat residents and Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord to determine locations for new cluster boxes, but the process is not simple.

"Customers don't want (cluster) boxes in their front yard," Murphy said. He added that the post office can't put cluster boxes "on every corner" because of concerns like safety and snowplowing.

Narrow streets and a lack of curbs in Old Town further complicate the issue, Murphy said.

Fletcher has lived in Steamboat for 40 years. His address is on Park Avenue in north Old Town. There is a cluster unit containing 12 boxes across the street from his house, Fletcher said, but all the boxes are in use.

Murphy said residents who want a cluster box near their home can submit their address at the post office, possibly after consulting with neighbors to submit a neighborhood request.

"Those would be the ones we could work on first," Murphy said.

Fletcher said he has not contacted his neighbors about the issue, and he is not sure if he will.

"I don't know if citizens should have to go out and survey their community," he said. "I don't know if that's my responsibility."

Murphy said the process of installing new cluster boxes could take two to three years.

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

river_tam 7 years, 8 months ago

What ever happened to Home Delivery, to your mailbox at your house? The Post Office unofficial motto should now read "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, AS LONG IT IS TO A CLUSTER BOX."

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bolter 7 years, 8 months ago

We pay 39c for a stamp just like everyone else in the USA. Their post offices deliver the mail to their homes for free. Our post office refuses to deliver the mail to us for free (saving them hundreds of thousands), and we reward them by paying for PO boxes (giving them additional hundreds of thousnads). Imagine being required to rent a phone booth at the Qwest building because they refuse to run wires to your house. This is the Postmaster's decision, and unfortunately from what I've read it is final.

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tkt3 7 years, 8 months ago

Remember as a kid, the thrill of going to the mailbox at the end of the drive, to check the mail? I know that we can't have the mailboxes at the end of the driveways due to the amount of snow that we get, but how about having the mailboxes on the house? My grandmother had hers there for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I remember greeting the mailman as a friend; giving him a present on the holidays...those were the good ole days!!!

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bolter 7 years, 8 months ago

Yes BD! Let's see---that's 7000 boxes at minimum $26/year = $182K per year that Murph owes us. I say cancel your PO box and change to General Delivery.

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Chris Kipfer 7 years, 8 months ago

Tempest in the Steamboat Teapot I suppose,but here is the actual USPS regulation. It seems that if the USPS will not deliver to your home mail box they must charge no fee. The Postmaster may have rather kept the secret. Eligibility to receive carrier delivery surely means that if I have a suitable home mail box the USPS must deliver to my home or other agreed upon address. Chris Kipfer, 31 Deerfoot Ave, Steamboat Springs-8792130

http://pe.usps.gov/Archive/HTML/DMMArchive1209/D910.htm#Rbr39715

D910 Post Office Box Service Summary

D910 describes post office box service and the use of this service. It explains the basis of fees, when fees are due, and when fees are refunded.

1.0 Basic Information 1.1Purpose

Post office box service is a premium service offered for a fee to any customer requiring more than free carrier delivery or general delivery and for no fee to customers who are not eligible for carrier delivery. The service allows a customer to obtain mail during the hours the box lobby is open or access is otherwise available. Post office box service is provided only through receptacles owned or operated by the USPS or its agents. Post office box service does not include alternate means of delivery established to replace, simplify, or extend carrier delivery service. A postmaster and a box customer may not make any agreement that contravenes the regulations on post office box service or its fees.

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