Town contacts Bezos for suggestions
By Mark Reaman
With the increasing overcrowding of the Crested Butte post office due to more and more packages being delivered through the facility, two issues are coming to a head: the idea of potential home delivery in Crested Butte and the need for a larger post office in the community.
According to David Rupert of the post office communications department, home delivery in Colorado is rare for towns of Crested Butte’s size. While the city of Gunnison has home delivery service, most other mountain resort communities like Breckenridge and Vail do not. Rupert said it is not just Amazon that uses the post office to deliver packages but the trend for more online internet shopping has resulted in a major increase in the number of parcels being handled at all post office facilities, not just Crested Butte.
“There has been double-digit growth in the number of packages the post office handles everywhere,” he said. “People shop differently and so the shipping impacts are different. It is particularly noticeable during the holiday season and it is not tied to just Crested Butte. But we know it is busy and sometimes challenging, so we want to thank people for their patience during this busy holiday period.”
Rupert said there has been no formal request from the town to expand the facility or move to home delivery options, nor is the postal service considering any expansion of delivery.
There has been what amounts to an urban legend that in the 1970s the town asked the post office to not use home delivery, given the National Historic District designation of the town. Crested Butte town manager Dara MacDonald said there is no record of such a request. Rupert and Crested Butte postmaster Jim Wardzinski are also not aware of any such formal agreement.
Wardzinski explained that establishment of new home delivery now entails clusters of boxes in specific areas of a community. “These days the U.S. Postal Service is moving away from new individual home delivery in general,” he explained. “The primary delivery system now is to install cluster boxes on each block or neighborhood.”
There are a few such centralized boxes in nearby areas such as Skyland and Allen Homesites. The 16-box cluster boxes cost as much as $1,500 each, which does not include added infrastructure like concrete pads and ways to make the boxes ADA-(American with Disabilities Act) compliant. There is also a cost for the land the cluster boxes sit upon. None of these costs would be borne by the postal service.
As for a larger facility, Wardzinski says the Elk Avenue facility is stretched year-round for space. Places like Steamboat and Winter Park have facilities that are approximately twice as large as the main Crested Butte building on Elk Avenue, with half the number of boxes.
Rupert said the postal service would evaluate current and future options with the Crested Butte facility. “Overall mail volume is decreasing everywhere, including Crested Butte,” Rupert explained. “There are fewer letters and more packages. Parcel volume is increasing significantly and we understand that. That makes for a tight fit in the facility in December.”
Rupert said Crested Butte doesn’t appear to have seen unusual significant growth over the last decade. He said there was not a waiting list for post office boxes in the main post office, which has about 2,000 boxes, or at the annex near Clark’s Market that holds another 1,000 boxes.
Adding services anywhere is something the postal service does not do without a lot of consideration. “The postal service does not use any tax money for operations. All of our revenue comes from our products and services,” said Rupert. “With a declining revenue base, we have to be prudent in every area of operation.”
The whole issue has been a hot topic on social media and with local politicians. The candidates for Crested Butte mayor, Jim Schmidt and Chris Ladoulis, have given it some thought.
“If I’m elected, I would like to meet with the postmaster to discuss the problems,” said Schmidt. “I think there is an opportunity to work jointly with the postal service to move the post office to somewhere along Sixth Street. This might solve the internal problems of a space too small as well as relieving some of the Elk Avenue traffic congestion.
“It’s worth thinking out of the box with perhaps even a multi-purpose building that might accommodate some workforce housing,” Schmidt continued. “Though it’s probably a long shot, it’s also worth the effort of contacting Amazon to see if they could have their deliveries made to houses instead of the post office.”
Ladoulis said while some things could be improved, he would lean toward keeping mail pick-up in a central location. “It’s getting hard for the post office to manage the volume of mail and boxes, especially this time of year,” he said. “They’ve been looking at options for years, and we can help them figure it out. Home delivery is an interesting idea, but it’s been found to be more expensive and less reliable than post office boxes or the ugly cluster boxes. Personally, I wouldn’t want it: One of my favorite things about Crested Butte has been walking to the post office to pick up my mail.”
The Crested Butte Town Council addressed the issue Monday when interim mayor Jackson Petito said he had received a lot of feedback from constituents on the matter. The town staff will ask postmaster Wardzinski to visit the council in the near future and discuss the situation.
In the meantime, town manager Dara MacDonald emailed Amazon founder (and world’s richest man) Jeff Bezos on Tuesday informing him of the dilemma Crested Butte and other rural mountain communities are facing with the U.S. Post Office being the delivery mechanism for packages. “Folks in urban areas may not realize that many rural mountain towns do not have access to home delivery through the postal service,” she wrote. “The success and popularity of Amazon is now having significant impacts on the limited capacity of our postal infrastructure. We would appreciate any ideas you may have on how to address this unintended issue for our community that has resulted from the changes in your delivery methods.”
MacDonald promises to share his ideas when he responds.