Free post ofﬁce boxes in Eagle County not commonly known
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – With home mail delivery not offered in many parts of the valley, residents are all too familiar with post office boxes. But a lack of communication between post office clerks and residents sometimes leaves residents in the dark about their eligibility for free post office boxes.
Local residents who meet a short list of criteria and live in most of the neighborhoods where mail delivery isn’t offered can get one free, small-sized post office box per household. The only problem is the clerks at the post office don’t always tell you about the option.
“I didn’t know that,” said Eagle-Vail resident Alex Kleckner, who moved here in December.
Henry Goetze, an Edwards resident and Avon doctor, moved to the valley from New York two years ago and has been questioning the local system ever since. He said the community has world-class standards for skiing, restaurants, hotels and resorts, yet accepts “second-rate service from the United States Postal Service.”
What Goetze found out through writing to the U.S. Postal Service’s consumer affairs department was that local jurisdictions have continuously opted to keep post office boxes as the preferred mail-delivery service. The requirements to get mail delivery in place – including street designs, regular street maintenance, snow plowing and accessibility, to name a few – would cost a lot of planning, time and expense for residents and municipalities, according to a letter to Goetze from Joan Harriger, consumer affairs manager of the Colorado and Wyoming district.
Al DeSarro, spokesman for the Western Area region of the U.S. Postal Service, said local towns and residents have to be willing to support home delivery service. The town of Vail has committed to meeting the requirements for home delivery, but it’s still not offered in Minturn, Avon, Eagle, Edwards and Gypsum.
Both Gypsum and Edwards offer limited mail delivery to some outlying areas.
A call to the Avon Post Office Wednesday proves there are some kinks in the communication between postal employees and local citizens. The clerk who answered the phone said a free box is available, but when asked why post office clerks don’t always share that information with customers, she said it’s because “people just know.”
The Avon postal clerk went on to say that some clerks share the information with customers while others do not.
DeSarro said that shouldn’t be the case, and said the U.S. Postal Service would immediately begin reviewing the number of post office boxes that eligible residents might be wrongly paying for.
“The Avon Post Office is currently doing a thorough review of its post office box operation and customer records. Since this review involves 6,100 active P.O. boxes at the Avon Post Office, and lots of cross-checking and detailed research and documentation, this process will take considerable time and resources,” DeSarro said in a statement Friday. “The Avon Post Office is committed to assuring that all of its post office box financial accounting is accurate, and that customers are being properly charged or not charged, per the rules and requirements.”
He said an initial review shows “a very small number” of boxes that are paid for but should be free. On the flip side, the Postal Service has also uncovered several free boxes that should be paid boxes.
The post offices would not be able to provide reimbursements for past payments made when free boxes should have been provided, nor will it require payments from those receiving free boxes who should have been paying, DeSarro said.
The U.S. Postal Service is also making sure its staff members know to always present the correct information to customers.
“There might be some errors that were made, but now it will be reviewed,” DeSarro said.
For many residents, the free post office box system has worked just fine, though.
Henry Bornstein, of Avon, said he’s had a free box for more than 10 years. He knows of many people who don’t have them free, though.
“Some people get them and some don’t – I have no idea why,” Bornstein said.
About half of the people interviewed at the Avon Post Office Wednesday – five people – said they pay for boxes and had never heard that free boxes are available. While some of those people might not qualify for a free box based on their living situations, they still didn’t know to ask post office clerks about it.
Daron Spaulding, of Avon, said he knew to ask for a free box because friends told him about it when he moved here.
Zach Taylor, also of Avon, has a free box and said the post office clerks told him about the option for the free box.
The lack of consistent communication is something DeSarro said will be fixed.
“It will be reinforced to staff there, to be more helpful in explaining it to customers,” DeSarro said.