Aug. 15, 2005 The complaints aired by St. John residents at Monday's Coral Bay Community Council public meeting with U.S. Postal Service officials were the same ones they've had for several years.
The meeting was held at the St. John School on Gifft Hill.
Residents spoke about priority mail letters taking up to three weeks to arrive, Christmas catalogues that arrive in the spring, credit card bills that arrive past their due date, magazines that arrive way late and out of sequence, and parcels that arrive with the contents missing.
"There's a place in the system where the mail just sits," St. John resident Jan Trainor said, echoing the opinion of others among the nearly two-dozen people who attended the meeting.
Postal officials went to great lengths to explain how the mail moves from the mainland to the Virgin Islands and how long each step is supposed to take.
"Magazines have to go by boat from Jacksonville, and there's only three sailings a week from Jacksonville," acting district manager Pablo Claudio said.
Claudio said St. John's mail is quickly transferred in San Juan to a plane bound for St. Thomas.
St. Thomas postmaster Robert Allen said his staff sends it on to St. John within 24 hours, where the staff has 48 hours to get it into mailboxes.
Finally, Sen. Craig Barshinger had had enough of their explanations as to why the mail isn't sitting somewhere.
"It sounds like the blame game. You're trying to talk the problem away," he said.
He said the tracking service provided on the Postal Service Web site often shows the mail is sitting in Puerto Rico.
Barshinger suggested the postal officials act like scientists instead of bureaucrats to solve the problem.
After Claudio suggested that customers sign up for a mail watch to see where the problem lies, Cid Hamling, who owns Connections mail service, said she's already done that with no improvements.
St. John Postmaster Tiffany Gumbs said she's aware St. John has a priority mail problem and is in the midst of a sampling program.
Claudio pointed out that Gumbs has only been postmaster since April and is trying to deal with problems she inherited.
Staffing has been an issue, but Claudio said that the agency recently hired one permanent person. Another will come on board Aug. 22. He said the post office also has three temporary workers to help out.
As for the long-promised new post office, Dane Weir, the Postal Service's manager of design and construction, said the Postal Service would conduct a feasibility study on a property it just located.
Thomas Pino, the Postal Service's real estate manager, said the agency has looked all over St. John, but high real estate prices have hindered the search.
"It's been a major headache," he said.
He said the lease on the Postal Service's current Cruz Bay facility runs until 2059 for 3,000 square feet of space. He said the post office needs 5,000 square feet.
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