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Letters to Congress take weeks

After the 2001 anthrax attacks on Washington, D.C., mail being sent to congressional offices or the White House goes through a lengthy screening process.

It can take mail eight weeks to get to congressional offices in the capital, according to representatives for Colorado’s congressional delegation.

The delays mean comments from local governments and voters don’t get to politicians as quickly as some would like.



Bob Anderson, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, said any first-class mail going to federal agencies in Washington is sent to New Jersey to be X-rayed. From there, the mail is sent back to Washington where it airs out for a day before being delivered.

The Postal Service sends about 9,000 pounds of mail to New Jersey to be scanned every day, but Anderson said they have the capacity to handle about 14,000 pounds a day.



Anderson said mail takes an extra two days to get to Washington because of security screening. Additional delays are the result of federal agencies scanning mail again when they get it.

“Every agency seems to be handling it different,” Anderson said.

Some federal agencies hire private contractors to scan the mail before delivering it, Anderson said.

Moffat County commissioners wanted to mail a letter to Rep. John Salazar’s office about energy development last week, but because they wanted it to get there as soon as possible, the commissioners faxed the letter rather than sending it through the mail.

Commissioners’ assistant Gena Hinkemeyer said the commissioners have mailed about a dozen letters to senators and representatives this year concerning topics including taxes and funding for voting equipment.

Commissioner Darryl Steele said the screening hasn’t been a problem for the commissioners, but for anything the commissioners want representatives to get right away, they probably will e-mail it or fax it.

Steele said the commissioners also send letters to congressional offices in Grand Junction, where there is no screening process.

From the Grand Junction offices, Steele said, commissioners have had good luck getting information to the congressional delegation.

Nayyera Haq, a spokeswoman for Rep. John Salazar, said the congressman’s office tries to answer every letter, but she recommends people use e-mail or fax because of security delays.

“There are more modern ways of communication and we try to take advantage of all of them,” Haq said.

Haq said the office receives 75 to 100 pieces of mail every day.

Right now, Haq said delays are running about two weeks for Rep. Salazar’s office.

Sending mail to the White House also means significant delays. The White House Web site discourages people from sending food or flowers because of delays.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031 or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com


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