Jonathan Coles: Boxed in


An open letter to Postmaster Tim O’Brien:

Sir, in view of the pending move of all the Sundance Plaza post office boxes to the downtown location, this seems an appropriate time to readdress a perennial question about mail service in Steamboat Springs.

Part 508, Section 4.6.2 of the Domestic Mail Manual, which is the government publication that describes the rules of the post office, states the following:

“Free P.O. Box Service (Group E)

Customers may qualify for Group E (free) P.O. Box service at a Post Office if their physical address location meets all of the following criteria:

a. The physical address is within the geographic delivery ZIP Code boundaries administered by a Post Office.

b. The physical address constitutes a potential carrier delivery point of service.

c. USPS does not provide carrier delivery to a mail receptacle at or near a physical address for reasons in 4.6.3b. ‘At or near a physical address’ is defined by reference to how carrier delivery is already established in a particular locale or ZIP Code.”

With the proviso that it is not clear what a “potential carrier delivery point of service” is, it seems that I, and all my downtown neighbors, qualify for free P.O. boxes. Is this true?

I did read section 4.6.3b, and paragraph 2 does state that free P.O. box service does not extend to “locations served, or eligible to be served, by centralized delivery or grouped receptacles such as cluster box units, apartment style receptacles, mailrooms, or clusters of roadside receptacles.”

Unfortunately it is once again unclear what this means. What makes a location “eligible to be served ...”? That sounds rather all-encompassing. It appears to be saying that just because the Postal Service could put a clusterbox in my neighborhood, they don’t have to provide me a free P.O. box.

Could you please clear up this confusing issue?

Jonathan Coles

Steamboat Springs


Brian Kotowski 4 years ago

While Mr. Coles asks legitimate questions re: clearing up the bureaucratic jargon, it amounts to deck chair arrangement on the Titanic, and highlights a more troubling issue: an overarching entitlement culture - I qualify for a freebie so gimme; to which our political class is all too eager to pander. USPS is $10 billion in the hole. USA, $17 trillion. The Fed is paying for its current bond purchase initiative by printing $85 billion every month. To provide some perspective, the total Cypriot debt is $13 billion. As long as Americans demand that we keep spending money we don't have and our leadership continues writing the rubber checks, we're up the proverbial creek. If the tipping point hasn't already been reached, it's getting close.

A lengthy but worthwhile read written by David Stockman for the NYT over the weekend, charting how we got here and where we may be headed. He is not optimistic.


Gaylan Hellyer 4 years ago

I meant to get to this earlier........ But wanted to pass along the info I found when I asked the same question.

I too qualify for a "Free" PO Box and have had them in the past in other small towns. The reason the post office does not issue "Free" boxes is that they say they have the cluster boxes for us to use but we have to contact the city to have them installed. When I contacted the city to volunteer a corner of my property for a cluster box they said they wouldn't install less than 3 clusters which is 30 boxes. We are on a dead end street in town and having 30 boxes located in the middle would create more traffic than it's worth. One cluster of 10 would be perfect So..... What is stopping us from putting mail boxes out in front of our houses for mail delivery? Other than it would be one more burden on the already stressed system. But I agree that if I don't have free access to mail delivery to my address I should at least be able to use a PO Box free of charge until the city has an opportunity to install cluster boxes in my neighborhood.

I did do the legwork a couple of years ago and didn't get anywhere, good luck!


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