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Questions about local USPS management and staffing remain unanswered

awrabel@dailyprogress.com

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As the U.S. Postal Service gets into the peak of its busiest time of the year, mail delivery in the Charlottesville area has seemingly improved from its summer slump, but officials are still not answering specific questions about who is now in charge locally after mail delivery was delayed earlier this year.

Postal service nationwide has been slow during the last year, but some in the Charlottesville area reported this spring and summer that they went weeks without receiving any mail or that they received mail that was months past due. The U.S. Postal Service has not given specifics about what caused the delays, other than staffing problems due to the pandemic.

When asked 15 specific questions about leadership changes U.S. Sen. Mark Warner announced earlier this month, a spokesperson for USPS responded only with a generic statement about the agency and vague statements about the Charlottesville area, but did not answer the questions.

“Our data indicates that mail delivery in Charlottesville has improved in recent weeks, which we can attribute in part to our recent hiring efforts,” said Philip Bogenberger, a USPS spokesperson based out of Charlotte. “Those efforts have helped boost staffing for career, part-time and seasonal positions in Charlottesville and the surrounding area.”

He did not provide specific data about Charlottesville by press time.

USPS performance data on the postal service’s website is only available by district.

For the Richmond District, which includes Charlottesville, for single-piece first-class mail from July through September, it shows 83.9% of the 2-day mail was on time, which was the lowest on-time percentage in the country per district for the fourth quarter. For the 3-to-5-day mail, 71.6% was on time in the Richmond District.

Across the district, 93.7% of the 2-day mail was on time with one extra day, and with three extra days, 97.8% was on time. For the 3-to-5-day mail, with three extra days, 97.1% was on time.

But there’s no measure or indication of the biggest problems that Charlottesville area residents faced — delays of weeks and even months, and sometimes receiving no mail at all.

2021 USPS Holiday Shipping DeadlinesThe USPS recommends the following mailing and shipping deadlines for expected delivery by Dec. 25 to domestic addresses: Dec. 15 — USPS Retail Ground service Dec. 17 — First-Class Mail service (including greeting cards) Dec. 17 — First-Class packages (up to 15.99 ounces) Dec. 18 — Priority Mail service Dec. 23 — Priority Mail Express service (not guaranteed)

Previously, Steve Hutkins, a retired English professor at New York University, who has been following the postal service for years and documents information on savethepostoffice.com, told The Daily Progress that delays area residents had been reporting were not showing up in the data.

The USPS is overseen by a nine-member board of governors appointed by the President. That board then selects the U.S Postmaster General, who is currently Louis DeJoy.

Since the end of USPS’s 2021 fiscal year, the postal service has announced changes in first-class delivery times across the country. Earlier this month, the USPS also announced proposed price increases, which, if approved by the Postal Service Governors, would increase shipping services product prices approximately 3.1 percent for priority mail service, and 3.1 percent for priority mail express service.

Earlier this month, Warner said he was told during a meeting with USPS officials that since his August visit, the Charlottesville Post Office, which serves the city and part of Albemarle County, had hired 22 new employees — four clerks, eight city carriers and 10 rural carriers. Another 20 people were pending background checks, Warner said.

Questions from The Daily Progress regarding how the number of open positions the Charlottesville Post Office the number of pending applications and what is being done fill these positions went unanswered from Bogenberger.

As of Friday, no positions in the Charlottesville Post Office were listed on the USPS career website. Only one position in the region is currently listed on the site — a Postal Support Employee Sales & Services/Distribution Associate at the Batesville Post Office in Albemarle. According to the post, postal support employees hold temporary appointments for a maximum of 360 days, and subsequent appointments may be offered but are not guaranteed.

Warner also said earlier this month a new acting postmaster was hired in Charlottesville and USPS added two other senior post office officials, one on integration and one on operations, to the office. Bogenberger also did not answer questions about who those three officials are, why they were brought in and who decided to hire them.

At Warner’s most recent press conference Nov. 4, he also said that 21 postal employees will “come from all around Virginia” and will be here “through the whole surge of the holidays” to deliver packages.

“It is routine for postal employees and substitute carriers to assist nearby post offices with coverage or during periods of high volumes,” Bogenberger said in an email. “When management positions become vacant, those positions are covered by another employee who serves in an ‘acting’ role.”

The last time the Charlottesville Post Office had a full-time postmaster was in 2018, and no one who has filled in since has been listed on the USPS postmaster finder webpage. Cloteal Farmer, who became the Charlottesville postmaster in 2017, is still listed as the Charlottesville postmaster on the webpage, but when Farmer is looked up by her name, it says she went to the Glen Allen Post Office in late 2018.

When asked about interviewing someone locally, Bogenberger said that the holiday season is the USPS’s busiest time of year.

“I do not have anyone available for an interview at this time, however, I will continue to check on availability when peak season subsides,” he said.

USPS is encouraging people to mail holiday gifts and cards early. According to a news release, it’s anticipated that between 850 million and 950 million packages will be delivered for the holidays. The total number of letters, cards and packages processed and delivered is estimated to be more than 12 billion.

The postal service is expanding Sunday delivery beginning Nov. 28 to locations with high package volumes.

According to the release, it’s expected that customer traffic at all post office locations will steadily increase beginning the week of Dec. 6 and the week of Dec. 13 is anticipated to be the busiest mailing, shipping and delivery week.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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