Efficiency of snail mail criticized

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Some Craig residents, including Donna Sherwood, have expressed their displeasure in local mail service, claiming mail is damaged and delayed at an unacceptable rate. They have put the blame squarely on a decision to have all of Craig's mail sorted by the automated systems in Glenwood Springs.

Sherwood said she received a bill March 15 that was mailed Feb. 27. The lateness of the bill nearly caused her to be delinquent on her account.

Sherwood took her complaints to her neighbors who were also concerned with the timeliness of the mail and the shape it arrived in.

Glenwood Springs' automated system began operating in September, and can sort 40,000 pieces of mail an hour at full speed.

"[The Post Office of Glenwood Springs] is the 816 sectional center, we handle the mail for all areas with an area code that begins with 816. The automated system was put in to order the mail for carriers, saving time for the carrier, " said Glenwood Springs Post Master Jon Dunbar.

Dunbar said there are nights that the machine breaks down and delays service, but explained the delays are rarely more than an extra day for delivery. As with all new systems, there were glitches when getting started, but Dunbar said that most of the problems have been worked out.

"[The system] is like night and day when compared to [how it ran in] October. The automated system is much better and faster now," Dunbar said. "Of course, the machine does chew up some mail, but the percentage is very small. Based on the number of pieces that it runs, what is damaged is a very small part of that."

Rick Ryan, Craig Post Master, reiterated Dunbar's point concerning damaged mail.

"Considering the thousands of pieces that are dealt with, the percentage [of damaged mail] is rather small, obviously not to the person whose mail is affected, but overall it's a small part," he said.

All of Craig's mail is sorted in Glenwood Springs, even local mail because the automated system is more efficient," Ryan said.

"[Sending the mail to Glenwood Springs] does not affect the time it takes customers to get their mail," he said.

The automated system organizes mail so that it's pre-ordered and boxed, and the carriers can just grab their sorted routes and go.

"If there is a breakdown in Glenwood Springs, we can hold the local mail here and sort it manually if we need to," Ryan said.

Sending the local mail along with out-of-town mail does not slow service, according to the postmaster. Mail is picked up at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. and is returned to Craig at 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. the next morning. When the mail is picked up for transport to Glenwood Springs, local and out-of-town pieces have been intermingled into one container.

Ryan admitted there are occasions when mail arrives extremely late, but said that occurred when the Craig post office sorted it manually.

The new system doesn't completely eliminate problems. When mail was sorted manually, there were times when got tossed in the wrong box and didn't get back to Craig for four or five days.

"Once we find a glitch in the Glenwood Springs system, we work with them so it doesn't happen again," Ryan said.

The decision to send Craig's mail to Glenwood Springs is at Ryan's discretion he was not forced to make it, but said it was strongly suggested as the best course for the Craig Post Office by the Denver office.

An employee at the Craig post office said she doesn't feel sending local mail to Glenwood Springs isn't an efficient system. She said local mail should be handled locally and that the post office has capability to sort mail here.

"Sending the mail to Glenwood Springs is causing more problems then it's solving," she said.

Tim Padden, Manager of Postal Operations for Area 4, which oversees Craig's Post Office, did not return repeated calls.

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