Feb. 21, 2004 Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen got an earful on Saturday from a handful of St. John residents who had some major complaints about the U.S. Postal Service.
Christensen held the last of her public meetings on the Postal Service at Nazareth Lutheran Church in Cruz Bay. A few weeks earlier, she held a conference call meeting for St. Thomas and St. Croix residents. Christensen said she will send a letter to Roberto DeLeon, who heads Postal Service activities in the region, in hopes that he'll find a solution to the territory's postal woes.
"He has said what they're about is giving service to their customers," Christensen said.
"Ridiculous" was the worst used most often when discussing the Postal Service's recent change in procedures. It has St. John mail destined for anywhere — even St. John — heading first to St. Thomas, then on to San Juan for sorting. The mail is then returned to St. John via St. Thomas, a situation that can take days.
When changes to procedures were announced several months ago, the St. John Post Office kept local, on-island mail in St. John, but Christensen said the Postal Service forced the staff to send it to San Juan.
Theodora Moorehead held up a priority mail envelope sorted in St. Thomas on Feb. 11 but not put in her St. John mailbox until Feb. 18.
"We're talking seven days later," she said.
Christensen also had her own tales to tell about slow service. She said she posted an express mail letter in St. Croix to her daughter in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. As of Friday, tracking showed it was still in St. Croix.
One person, who did not want her name used, said her bill payments were received late even though she mailed them in plenty of time.
The delegate, who toured the post office before the meeting, said the problems in St. John also stem from an employee shortage. The post office no longer hires part-time work, leaving all the duties to the eight full-time workers. And one of those people must go to St. Thomas to sort mail.
On Saturday, only four people were working.
Several people complained that the lobby line could be out the door, but the post office never opens all its windows. The St. John Post Office has three windows, but most often only one or, occasionally, two are open.
"You can't get in and out in 10 minutes," Clarence Cipio said.
Melville Samuel noted that a drop box outside the post office had an opening too large, allowing people to either steal or retrieve letters put in the wrong box.
He said he offered to fix the problem, but the post office turned him down.
Samuel also complained that the post office staff must pile packages in an unsecured area outside the facility because there isn't enough room inside. When it rains, post office workers have to hustle outside with a tarpaulin to cover the boxes.
Samuel said that anyone walking by can pick up a package from the pile.
Christensen said that hopes of a new post office are on hold because the Postal Service has a nationwide moratorium on new construction. However, she said an exchange of buildings between federal agencies or federal and local agencies might be possible.
Christensen suggested that the recent changes in the way the post office operates were a deliberate attempt to justify privatization.
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