Buena Vista residents’ concerns about the local post office have gained the attention of Colorado’s U.S. senators. After post office box rates sharply increased in late summer, resurrecting a decades-old controversy, BV joined many other rural Colorado communities in lamenting the state of their postal services.
The Times published an article on Oct. 21 documenting efforts to obtain an explanation for price increases and the reasons that Buena Vista residents receive neither home delivery nor free post office box services.
An initial call was placed Oct. 8 to USPS attorney Valerie Pelton, listed as a contact for further information on the Federal Register notice documenting price increases at 227 U.S. Post Office locations nationwide.
Pelton said she would call back regarding whether all 227 locations increased prices by more than 100 percent, as Buena Vista’s post office had.
Additional calls placed and messages left on Oct. 14 and Nov. 10 were not answered. The Times has most recently attempted to contact Pelton via email, with no response received as of press time.
Correspondence from USPS representatives in 2016, addressed to concerned BV resident MaryAnn Uzelac, cited an email from “Postmaster OIC Linda Eggleston” that claimed the most recent postal survey in Buena Vista was conducted in 1997 and showed residents did not want delivery service.
Barbara L. Cochran, manager of USPS Consumer and Industry Contact, and H. Benitez of the USPS CO WY District Consumer Affairs office, both claimed the reported survey results to be a legal basis not to provide home delivery or free post office boxes to residents in town. They said the email also cited surveys from the 1950s and late 1800s with similar results.
An article in the Aug. 28, 1997, Times reported the results of a postal survey asking whether residents wanted home delivery tallied at 302 for and 136 against.
The Times submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the Eggleston email to the USPS on Oct. 8. On Oct. 20 we received a reply that no such document could be found. A USPS attorney noted that electronic records are required by policy to be retained for a period of two to three years.
On Oct. 21 a request was submitted for any documents pertaining to postal surveys in 1997. As of press time, the request had not been fulfilled.
USPS attorney Stuart James contacted The Times to offer assistance in our ongoing investigation. He was sent questions about the rate increases and legal basis for denying home delivery or free P.O. box service.
“Please be advised that my unit is currently consulting our HQ in Washington with respect to the situation in Buena Vista that you set forth below ... While I cannot give you an estimated date for a response to your questions, we are currently working on it,” he replied Nov. 10.
Buena Vista resident Christina Randle has continued her inquiries and has facilitated communications between town staff and elected officials and the offices of U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper.
“This is concerning, and unfortunately you are not alone in the issues you raise,” said Matthew Kireker, a regional representative who works in Bennet’s office. “Nearly a dozen other rural Colorado municipalities have raised similar/overlapping concerns over the past 12-18 months.”
In an email addressed to Town Administrator Phillip Puckett, Mayor Duff Lacy and Buena Vista leaders, Kireker said Bennet’s office had forwarded concerns to the CO WY USPS regional staff as well as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. He also alluded to further actions planned in concert with Hickenlooper’s office.
Other nearby rural Colorado mountain communities like Breckenridge, Blue River, Dillon, Silverthorne, Frisco, Estes Park and Crested Butte have also been lodging complaints over issues like understaffed postal facilities and lack of home delivery.
Of nearby towns, however, BV postal service appears unique in not offering home delivery or free P.O. boxes.
In an April 27 correspondence from Donna Walker, manager of USPS Consumer & Industry Contact, to Summit County Manager Scott Vargo, Walker wrote, “More than a hundred ZIP codes in Colorado and thousands across America are rural communities like yours that receive daily, free delivery via Post Office boxes.”
Puckett expressed his appreciation for the efforts so far made by staff in Bennet and Hickenlooper’s offices, while asking that the efforts not abate.
“I just wanted to share with you that these concerns are legitimate and we welcome all the help and attention we can get from our senators,” he said. “As you can imagine in a small but busy and growing town, the level of frustration, confusion and sometimes anger is mounting.”