Skiers in the Steamboat Springs area have welcomed recent snowstorms, but the heavy snow hasn't been as easy on those delivering mail. The post office wants to remind the public to keep the area around cluster boxes clear, so that the large doors can be opened easily to deliver the mail.

Photo by John F. Russell

Skiers in the Steamboat Springs area have welcomed recent snowstorms, but the heavy snow hasn't been as easy on those delivering mail. The post office wants to remind the public to keep the area around cluster boxes clear, so that the large doors can be opened easily to deliver the mail.

Postmaster asks neighbors to pitch in

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— Interim Steamboat Springs Postmaster Mike Evans is urging residents who have their mail delivered to a cluster box to pitch in and shovel out.

Steamboat's neighborhoods have seen some of the highest snow totals in 99 years thus far this winter. In some instances, where shared neighborhood mailboxes haven't been kept clear of snow by postal patrons, mail has not been delivered.

"People are calling and wondering where their mail is," Evans said. "If (the contract mail carrier) can't open the cluster box because of snow or because his safety is jeopardized, he is instructed to bring the mail back."

Evans arrived in Steamboat three weeks ago in the midst of one of the heaviest December snowfalls on record. Weather watcher Art Judson said a weather station between downtown and the ski mountain recorded 74.2 inches of snow last month. That represents the fourth highest total in 99 years.

The city of Steamboat Springs and the U.S. Postal Service collaborated in the late 1990s to begin installing cluster boxes, each one able to serve 16 households. Today there are more than 400 cluster boxes, many close to condo and townhouse projects, scattered across the city.

The city's Public Works Department confirms that it has always been the shared responsibility of the people receiving their mail at the cluster boxes to keep them free from plowed snow.

"The program was instituted under the assumption that it was the responsibility of the citizens to make the cluster boxes accessible," said Jim Weber of the Public Works Department.

He added that snowplow operators try to get as close to the cluster boxes as they safely can, but they aren't set up to remove the snow blocking the boxes. Weber said the location of each cluster box in relation to the street is unique and presents its own challenges for plow operators.

Evans said he has heard from postal patrons whose individual mailboxes are above the snow line, and they are especially concerned when their mail hasn't been delivered.

"I don't think they realize the entire unit opens as one piece," Evans said.

Evans, who came here from Pine, said although the cluster boxes could accommodate more households, about 1,500 addresses in Steamboat get their mail in cluster boxes.

"The benefits to the community are huge on multiple levels," Weber said.

In addition to reducing traffic congestion surrounding the Fish Creek at Sundance and downtown post offices, they make a contribution to air quality by reducing vehicle trips, he said.

Comments

kusellout 6 years, 3 months ago

Just when you thought the postal service couldn't get any lazier....

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handyman 6 years, 3 months ago

It's my understanding that it's not the postal service that delivers the mail. They contract out the service. Maybe snow removal isn't in their contract. In another state where I used to live, if the postal carrier couldn't drive up and put the mail in the box from his vehicle, it didn't get delivered. Postal regulations prohibited the carrier from getting out of his vehicle to put the mail in the box.

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doglover 6 years, 3 months ago

If you want your mail shovel the clutter boxes out. The USPS is her to provide us a service by delivering our mail not shoveling our walks. Just when you thought the public couldn't get any lazier!

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Brian Smith 6 years, 3 months ago

Doglover,

I agree, who would even think that the USPS should be clearing the way to the mail box. I can assure you if FedEx or UPS could not get to your house because your driveway is too long and full of snow, you would not get your package (happened to me last year).

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corduroy 6 years, 3 months ago

when they delivered to my home back east, if my road was impassible (dirt and dead end) or if there was too much mud or snow in the way of the box they'd have us come into town to pick it up at the post office. I'm from a much smaller town so they can call you, but Steamboat is much larger. I think if you have the privilege to actually have a cluster box unlike most of us who have to visit the Post Office daily to pick up ours, you should respect that privilege and shovel it. True, most cities get home delivery, unlike this anomaly here in Steamboat, I still never got a real response from the Postmaster about why, other than the rumor that its the amount of snow, or that too many are part time residents

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jaunty 6 years, 3 months ago

Can anyone explain why we cannot get cluster boxes in most parts of Old Town? Some of us requested this service about 15 years ago and it still hasn't happened.

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Carrie Requist 6 years, 3 months ago

Keeping the cluster boxes clear is not that big of a job, but most neighborhoods don't have organizations or things that plan for the maintenance, so then it falls to whoever to do it and sometimes it gets done and sometimes it doesn't. I live at the end of a cul-de-sac and the cluster box is at the beginning. When I am on top of things, I will throw the snow shovel in the car and dig it out occasionally, but usually it is people who live closest to the box who end up cleaning it. In some ways, I think it strikes people the same as fire hydrants. Neighborhoods are not responsible to keep the hydrants clear or to keep the roads to their driveways clear, so why are we responsible to keep the neighborhood cluster box clear? It really is the only communal, "government-run" item that that neighborhood is responsible for and that can be a problem since most neighborhoods don't have the communication structure to deal with it.

I am sure I will get flamed as a whiner, but I just wanted to point out the reality that people are busy and that many people can't be counted on to do communal work unless they are held accountable for it.

In my case I continue to primarily use the PO box as I have had dependability issues with the cluster box and not due to snow. Packages sent to my street address via USPS (when I expected the shipper to use a carrier service) have been lost or misplaced for a while and the burden is on me to track them down, call the post office, then call the carrier (but not when they are on the route) and figure out where the package is. Once I got a key (to one of the package boxes) and that package box was empty - what happened to the package? Many phone calls later and no one was really sure if I had ever had a package or not. That mystery was never solved. Add those reliability issues to the show clearing issue and I continue to stick with my PO box.

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corduroy 6 years, 3 months ago

actually Carrie, you DO need to clear your hydrants the city doesn't do that for you.. if there is a fire nearby I'd sure hope some nice person that had it on their property cleared around it

I completely agree with you about shipping addresses and different carriers, I've had to run all over town to track down something. Some online retailers won't tell you what carrier they are using until after you checkout, so who knows where it will end up? I haven't lost anything luckily, but I've had some serious issues getting a few things in a timely manner

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Carrie Requist 6 years, 3 months ago

I have seen the city plows clearing the fire hydrants. Guess that neighborhood maintenance of the fire hydrants is a best-kept secret. I did find this request on the city web site: http://www.steamboatsprings.net/index.php?id=536

This is the first I have every heard of maintaining your neighborhood fire hydrants.

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Scott Wedel 6 years, 3 months ago

The city uses a truck with a massive snowblower to clear out the fire hydrants. There is no great reason why that couldn't be used to clear out the snow around at least some of the cluster boxes that get plowed in by the street plows. That snowblower truck spends most of it's time moving to the next hydrant so it'd take just a few seconds if when passing a clusterbox to blow away that bit of plow berm.

Not that removing snow is usually that much of a burden, but sometimes those plow berms end up with big ice hunks and are not easy to shovel or blow with a small snowblower.

Also, unlike fedex or UPS that will leave a note or call when it cannot deliver, it appears the US Post Office just ignores snowed in cluster boxes instead of leaving a notice stating why mail cannot be delivered. That is the sort of bad customer service that is all too common.

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corduroy 6 years, 3 months ago

do you pay to have your mail delivered? If not, then how is it their responsibility to make sure your receptacle is clear and accessible? I pay for a PO box and they maintain that for me.. you get what you pay for I guess. My experience all over the US with the Postal Service is if they deliver to you, you must keep your mailbox clear of snow, keep vicious dogs from attacking the mailman, etc

The link that Carrie found is the information that I've gotten whenever I asked the city as well "Fire Prevention Services and the Water Department are requesting your assistance again this winter in maintaining fire hydrants. If there is a fire hydrant near your home, please keep the hydrant clear of snow so that it can be located in the event it is needed. Also, please remember not to plow or blow snow around fire hydrants when using your plow or snow blower."

Unfortunately I can't find anything very useful on the USPS site, other than that people are in charge or their own receptacle, but didn't mention clusterboxes.. wow Steamboat really is weird!

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Carrie Requist 6 years, 3 months ago

Cord - My response is that yes, I pay to have my mail delivered with each stamp that I put on every letter I send. To me that is that payment I make to ensure that the letter is delivered to the recipient and senders who send things to me make that same stamp payment to expect items to be delivered to me.

The whole PO Box fee seems a bit of a scam since it is far more expensive to rent the box at the Post Office where they don't have to pay contractors to deliver the mail than it is to not pay a fee for the cluster box (or in areas where they actually deliver to your house pay a one time fee to buy a mailbox) where USPS has much more expense (just in fuel) to deliver me my mail. Seems like with the PO Box, I am paying USPS to do them the favor of them not having to send my mail out around town. Not sure why they don't charge for the cluster box just like they charge for the PO box.

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AmebaTost 6 years, 3 months ago

Just what we need 1500 more people running across the road in front of the post office. I swear someone will get run over eventually if the po box people don't learn to look were they're going. Anyway shoveling 1 or 2 feet of freshly fall'n snow from the cluster box isn't a big deal either until the plow guy who plows 3 to 4 feet of extra dirt and rocks from the edge of the road and everything else in front of the box. I think the plow guy should do his part to make it easier for the home owners by not heaping it up in front of the cluster box.

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AmebaTost 6 years, 3 months ago

cord- Do you think if I dumped my load of snow in front of your po box everyday, the Post Office would maintain it for you? Or do you think they would get tired of moving a pile of stuff someone else made? Rumor has it the po box can be free if you fill out the right form.

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corduroy 6 years, 3 months ago

Ameba I think if you dumped snow in the 3rd and Lincoln Post Office they'd probably just have you arrested! But thanks for the laugh :)

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ColoradoNative 6 years, 3 months ago

People complaining about having to shovel some snow in front of their mailbox while millions of people are starving all over the world everyday. Unbelievable.

Put down your sushi and wine glass down and get to work.

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armchairqb 6 years, 3 months ago

Don't want to shovel snow in front of your cluster box? Remedy get a cluster box in Maui. !!!!!!

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STEMBOATwannabe 6 years, 3 months ago

Hey Be happy that there is mail delivery for some residents. If there wasn't the local PO would be a zoo.

There are cluster boxes in other areas of Colorado. We have one near our home in Florence.

If each person in the cluster would shovel one shovel full each snow the box would be clear... Not a BIG DEAL!

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bolter 6 years, 3 months ago

You people are unbelievable! Have you been licking too many stamps?

We pay the same for a postage stamp as a Craig resident. The Craig resident gets FREE home mail delivery. Here in Steamboat, we save the USPS the effort and come to them for our mail. Our reward for saving the USPS the cost of home delivery is PO Box rental. We get less postal service than Craig, and we pay more for it. Not only does the SSPO collect lots of excess POBox rent, but it saves a fortune by not hiring letter carriers. What a scam! The SS USPS should divert some of its huge profits and clear the snow from the frikkin cluster boxes!

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dave reynolds 6 years, 3 months ago

just another example of how people here feel they are SPECIAL..I clear our clusterboxes..my nieghbor and i take turns..does someone wipe our .. for you too..there is a labor shortage you know

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justathought 6 years, 3 months ago

If you live where there is no mail delivery a po box can be had for free. If you're too damn lazy to clear a path to your cluster box, use another service, I'm sure they would love to shovel for you. You don't expect much for your 41 cents, do you?

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mtnkids 6 years, 3 months ago

fact is, there's about 4 of us out of 16 who take care of our cluster box. maybe it's pretty fair to assume that that percentage applies throughout the city.

to think that the city fire hydrant snowblowers can "take a few seconds" and clear out the 400+ cluster boxes around town is absurd. has anyone seen how hard these guys are working just to keep up with the volume of snow these past few weeks?

to think that the contracted mail delivery people should be expected to do the shoveling...? they are only outnumbered 16-1 at every single cluster box.

whatever happened to people throwing a shovel over their shoulder and getting a little exercise in the crisp mountain air? it's the new steamboat, and aren't we all so proud.

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jaunty 6 years, 3 months ago

Again, I ask -- why are most neighborhoods in Old Town Steamboat denied the possibility of having cluster boxes? Why do I have to pay rent for a P.O. box because the USPS does NOT deliver the mail anywhere in Old Town residential neighborhoods?

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GuyOnABike 6 years, 3 months ago

Fact: I live in Old Town, I am not provided with home or cluster box delivery. The Post Office makes me pay for the privilage to have to go pick up my mail. We could reduce congestion on our roads if the Post Office would provide cluster boxes to those of us whom live downtown. I'll gladly keep my clusterbox clear of snow. I enjoy the exercise.

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bolter 6 years, 3 months ago

justathought: You are technically correct. I have filled out the form and had free PO for a few years (I would urge all to request the form). The PO sent me a letter saying that I no longer qualified for free POB b/c mail "could be" delivered to my home or a cluster box. The rub is that the USPS can designate a cluster box miles away from my home (further than the PO) in order to dodge the freebie. In a legal challenge, your only remedy is before a USPS referee whose decision is final. The USPS regulations require free POB if you cant get home delivery, but the USPS can unilaterally define what "can't get" means. We are forced to pay more for less.

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GuyOnABike 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm tired of being given a line by the Post Office. How do I get them to do home delivery in Old Town?

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handyman 6 years, 3 months ago

bolter - I was told essentially the same thing by a postal employee: Technically, I could get a free box, but they "kinda" discontinued that because there were too many free boxes. But the PO employee said that if I wanted to really push it, I could force them to provide home delivery. Hmmm . . . Let's band together and do it!

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justathought 6 years, 3 months ago

Try a petition at your local po and saturate the postmaster general's office with complaints. This conversation actually tickles me, how old is the US postal service? The government can't even get the mail right (or social security) after all these years but yet so many people think the government is capable of setting up national healthcare system. How many screwed up government run entities are needed to wake the Americans up?

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