Avon seeks solutions by joining collective legal effort to improve Postal Service | VailDaily.com

Avon seeks solutions by joining collective legal effort to improve Postal Service

Town joins a coalition of at least seven mountain communities to analyze legal options with the Postal Service

Avon joined a group of seven mountain communities in Colorado that are seeking legal advice on how to deal with the United States Postal Service.
Ali Longwell/Vail Daily archive

Earlier this month, a coalition of Colorado’s mountain communities announced it was hiring a legal team from Kaplan Kirsh Rockwell amid widespread challenges with the United States Postal Service.

With Crested Butte leading the way, the towns of Avon, Buena Vista, Parachute, Silverthorne, Snowmass Village and Steamboat Springs have reportedly joined the consortium to explore their legal options.

According to Crested Butte News, the communities have agreed to pay up to $35,000 for the legal analysis. The town of Avon has budgeted $5,000 for its portion, said Eric Heil, the town’s manager.

Avon’s Mayor Amy Phillips clarified that this is “not a lawsuit.” Rather, these communities are seeking legal guidance on what its options are for “inspiring the United States Postal Service to service communities like ours,” she added.

While each community — or zip code, as Phillips put it — in Colorado has different, specific challenges facing their post office, they are all in a similar boat and have a shared desire to find solutions.

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Phillips said that one of the main similarities of the towns involved is they “did not have street mail in 1974 when the postal deregulation happened, but that are now much bigger communities.”

With this population growth, the original post office locations are struggling to meet demand.

“Our facility has been being used for more than 20 years … and although there’s always been issues, they have become exacerbated, mostly because of the migration to online ordering and delivery,” Phillips said.

Last year, Avon was reportedly one of the Western Slope post offices that received a space constraint study on its post office. These studies are administered to determine if a post office is right-sized for the community it serves. According to Phillips, town officials were told the Avon post office is “the right size,” which she added is “just not logical.”

In August, the Vail Daily was denied a copy of this space constraint study with the rationale that it is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act because the results are proprietary in nature. Similarly, Phillips said the town has not given the parameters of the study when asked.

Phillips said that Avon was approached alongside many of the communities in the Colorado Association of Ski Towns — of which Avon and Vail are the Eagle County member communities — to join this collective legal effort.

“Because we are in a position that we don’t have other projects that we’re working on with the post office — we’re kind of stagnant — we felt that was a good avenue to at least see what our legal options are,” Phillips said.

“We’re hiring legal counsel to wade through the piles of regulations that are related to this to see what grounds we have to stand on.”  

These options, she hypothesized, could be things such as writing letters or appearing in front of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

But ultimately, Phillips said the desired outcomes — for her and for the Avon post office — are solutions to the top challenges as well as long-term planning as it relates to mail delivery and service in the town and future developments.

Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper met face-to-face with the United States Postal Service Postmaster Louis DeJoy on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, to discuss the challenges facing mountain communities.
Eli Pace/Summit Daily archive

Generally speaking, she hopes it will help “make the existing post office efficient.”

For Phillips, some of the needed solutions include a more efficient mix of parcel locker sizes, fixing the broken parcel lockers (some of which she said have been broken for many years), providing materials on how to use the post office in various languages (to help better serve the J1 and international workforce), a higher level of cleanliness, and mail being delivered in a more timely fashion.   

So far, there have been no updates on the legal analysis, Phillips said.

Seeking solutions, together

Over the past year, Avon has consistently been a part of various regional efforts to draw attention to and find solutions for the problems facing mountain communities’ mail delivery and postal service. This included participating in the regional meetings held last year with various municipalities, Colorado senators and Regional Postal Service representatives.

Phillips said there are a lot of people and communities working on these challenges in “a strategic, cohesive manner,” which will hopefully lead to solutions.

The greater regional effort includes calls to action led by Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper as well as Rep. Joe Neguse, who represents most of Eagle County in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District. All three electeds have become increasingly vocal about finding solutions, including most recently a meeting held between the senators and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

Following the meeting, DeJoy in a statement said that “the solutions in mail delivery service inevitably involve human resources, and our workforce — no matter how hard working and spread thin — in these mountain communities where it is expensive to live and difficult to hire; a challenge that will also need creative solutions from local leaders.”

The statement also added that “the Postmaster General indicated that response teams have been deployed to guide local efforts, that people resources from local communities and a neighboring state have been sent, and he offered a periodic check in to report on progress.”

So far, only time will show what (and if) solutions are presented, including those from the collective legal analysis.

But as Phillips put it: “It literally will take an act of Congress to get this fixed.”

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