Tim O’Brien, Steamboat Springs postmaster for the U.S. Postal Service, offered the following dates and tips for sending packages in the holiday season:
■ The deadline has passed for sending mail by Christmas to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the Postal Service will get all packages there as soon as possible.
■ Friday is the deadline for any other overseas location.
■ Dec. 21 is the deadline for U.S. locations, out of state.
■ Dec. 22 is the deadline for Colorado locations.
■ Dec. 23 is the deadline for sending express packages by Christmas, but that service is available only to metro areas near a major airport.
■ The Postal Service handles about 17 billion pieces of mail nationwide from Thanksgiving through Christmas.
■ Monday is expected to be biggest mailing day.
■ The Postal Service expects about 830 million pieces of mail nationwide that day.
■ On a busy day in Steamboat, local post offices handle 2,000 to 3,000 packages.
■ The Postal Service is offering priority mail, flat-rate boxes this year. If it fits in the box and weighs less than 70 pounds, it’ll ship anywhere in the U.S. for $4.95, $10.95 or $13.95, depending on the box size.
■ The Postal Service can’t ship items that are flammable, are toxic or contain alcohol.
■ Use a complete, printed address and name, with a complete return address, on cards and letters.
■ Pack packages tightly and securely.
■ Remove batteries from toys and appliances, so they don’t turn on during shipping.
■ Use strong packing tape. Avoid paper or string on the outside of a package if possible.
■ Include a paper inside the box with addresses and a list of contents, in case the package is damaged in transit.
■ ZIP codes and shipping rates are available online at www.usps.com, or by calling 1-800-ASK-USPS.
Steamboat Springs Retail postal service will end Jan. 15 at the Sundance post office, and negotiations are under way to keep P.O. boxes there after March 15.
The U.S. Postal Service’s lease at the Sundance at Fish Creek branch was scheduled to end this month, but Postal Service spokesman Al DeSarro said Wednesday that an extension will allow shipping and retail services to continue at the south-side branch into early next year. Steamboat Springs Postmaster Tim O’Brien said after Jan. 15, four Sundance employees will move to the downtown branch, where retail services will be consolidated.
“Obviously, we will be busier here — we’re set up to handle it,” O’Brien said about the Third Street and Lincoln Avenue branch. “The existing staff that manned the windows (at Sundance) will man the windows here.”
The lease for the P.O. box space at Sundance is under negotiation, but DeSarro said regardless of whether P.O. boxes remain at Sundance after March 15, the branch’s nearly 2,600 boxes “will stay in that vicinity in Steamboat.” DeSarro said that could mean housing the boxes in vacant commercial space or installing modular units at the potential site of a new, main post office a private developer could build near U.S. Highway 40 and Pine Grove Road.
Bob Larson, manager of Sundance at Fish Creek, said he hopes to keep the P.O. boxes at Sundance and is optimistic about a successful lease with the Postal Service.
“We’re still working together with them with hopes of reaching a longer agreement,” he said about the Postal Service. “We’re disappointed that the post office has chosen to shut down the service portion, but we don’t have any control over that. … We’re at least hoping we can get the P.O. boxes to stay here, for the benefit of customers on this side of town.”
Larson said the negotiations have been challenging.
“I can say that the whole experience working with the post office and trying to preserve P.O. box and postal service has been a long and difficult process. We hope that we’re getting close and feel like we’re almost there,” he said.
O’Brien said efforts to redesign traffic flow in the downtown branch’s main parking lot, to mitigate increased use, have been well-received. Traffic can no longer exit the parking lot onto U.S. Highway 40. Traffic can exit only via a right turn onto Third Street, after traveling counterclockwise in the lot.
“I see that most people are following that change and most people are aware of it,” O’Brien said.
The Postal Service is facing significant financial shortfalls stemming at least in part from the economic recession. Mail volume declined by 10 billion parcels in federal fiscal year 2008, and the Postal Service lost $2.8 billion.
DeSarro said federal legislation in 2009 — and a work force reduction of about 40,000 employees — helped the Postal Service cut its losses from potentially $7 billion to about $3.8 billion in 2009. DeSarro said the Postal Service is projecting “at least a $3 billion deficit” in federal fiscal year 2010.
But he said shipping delays or staff shortages are not expected in the upcoming holiday rush.
“We’re not looking at longer mailing times,” he said. “The only thing that’s kind of holding us up a little bit here is the bad weather.”
Shipping and stamp sales also are available at PostNet, in the 1600 block of Mid Valley Drive near the Staples store in southern Steamboat. Those services cost more than federal services.
— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail email@example.com