Local: Changes cause postal woes

New USPS guidelines delaying newspaper deliveries

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— Kate Sverre, a periodicals specialist with the United States Postal Service, is making a list and checking it twice. And she is frustrated.

Recent changes in the way the Postal Service handles magazines and newspapers have caused delivery delays statewide, particularly to rural areas such as Routt County.

"I have copies of letters from senators and letters from publishers writing to senators," Sverre said. "We are getting way too many complaints. I'm looking for what I can tell a postmaster."

During the weekend, area subscribers to the Sunday Steamboat Pilot & Today did not receive their newspapers on time.

Those affected were subscribers who receive their newspapers at a post office box or from a U.S. Postal Service carrier. The newspaper's private contractors made their deliveries as scheduled.

Steamboat Springs Postmaster Frank Murphy said it was not a Routt County mistake. New guidelines implemented in early July call for periodicals to be sacked and sent to Denver for sorting before being returned to Steamboat for delivery.

That process takes one or two days, which caused the delays.

Before the new guidelines, periodicals delivered to post office boxes or via carrier were set aside and handled by local delivery drivers or dropped off at rural post offices.

Sverre understands people's frustration with the new system. Her frustration is audible on the other end of a phone line, as she searches for a solution.

Subscribers with questions can call Steamboat Pilot & Today circulation director Steve Balgenorth at 871-4232 or e-mail sbalgenorth@steamboatpilot.com.

"(The Postal Service) doesn't realize it's the small newspaper we are affecting," she said. "I don't know if we will bend. I think we should."

Steve Balgenorth, circulation director for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, said he has fielded dozens of phone calls from customers who did not receive their Sunday newspaper at the usual time. He is working with Steamboat Springs Post Office officials on a solution to the delivery problems. Balgenorth said he hopes the issue is resolved by this weekend.

"We are trying to go back to the original way, where subscribers will have regular delivery of the Pilot as before," Balgenorth said. "If people have questions, feel free to call me. I apologize to so many people. It's a small paper and a small post office. Our main concern is service to our customers."

To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com.

Most first-class mail and letters dropped in a Steamboat Springs Post Office mailboxes is first sent to Denver, even if the mail's destination is to another Routt County address.

The same is true in South Routt and Hayden, although mail from those areas typically goes to Grand Junction or Glenwood Springs to be sorted.

Those guidelines have been in place for "quite a while," Steamboat Springs Postmaster Frank Murphy said.

"Everything goes down to Denver unless they bring it to the front window and want a local postmark on it, and we keep it here," Murphy said. "We keep some flats (8.5 by 11 inches) here."

Other parcels and mail are sorted by machines in Denver. When the mail returns to Steamboat or other rural post offices, it is pre-sorted according to carrier or post office box.

Bulk mailings from Routt County, including mailings for nonprofit organizations, that are not pre-sorted also will be sent out of the area for sorting.

Lisa Rule, mail flow controller with the U.S Postal Service in Denver, said any delay in receiving mail during the weekend was a coincidence with the change in periodicals handling.

"If we are having delivery issues on the other classes of mail, it could just be an internal flow problem we haven't identified. We've been doing a lot of equipment changes, but nothing earth-shattering."

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