Group starting with analysis that could lead to lawsuit against US Postal Service
[ by Mark Reaman ]
Six Colorado towns have joined with Crested Butte to look at taking legal action against the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The communities believe the USPS is not providing the minimum legal service for towns. Joining Crested Butte are the communities of Avon, Buena Vista, Parachute, Silverthorne, Snowmass Village and Steamboat Springs.
The coalition will retain legal firm Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell (KKR) that specializes in such legal proceedings to complete a detailed claims analysis regarding the USPS and the failure of service in Crested Butte and the other communities. The analysis is expected to cost approximately $25,000 to $35,000. The bill would be divided equally between the participants, not to exceed $5,000 each.
If a decision is made to actually sue the USPS, the approximate cost would balloon to the $250,000 neighborhood.
The law firm stated in its letter of engagement to Crested Butte that if hired, the towns would be advised “on matters regarding a legal challenge to the U.S. Postal Service’s ineffective service in violation of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act and potentially other federal laws, including litigation against the U.S. Postal Service and other matters…”
It is expected to take about a month to analyze the situation from a legal perspective.
Lawyers at KKR in Denver and Karp Neu Hanlon in Glenwood Springs, which provides regular legal services to many of the participating communities, are currently researching two avenues for a potential lawsuit — violations of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, and the crippling Last Mile Delivery contracts that the USPS has with major internet retailers like Amazon.
The 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act specifically requires the U.S. Postal Service to achieve objectives that include “…preserve[ing] regular and effective access to postal services in all communities, including those in rural areas or where post offices are not self-sustaining.”
The towns said in a press release that their aim is to force both near-term action and long-term policy changes to fix what may be the most broken region in the nation when it comes to mail and package delivery.
Crested Butte mayor Ian Billick has said the goal is to ultimately create the structure to improve the post office service to local citizens.
According to their press release, the breakdown in postal service in many rural western Colorado communities has been going on for years, with regular delays in mail delivery, long lines at the post offices, and shortages of post office boxes in communities where mail is not delivered to homes and businesses. Service problems have become even more acute over the last several months in some of these areas, prompting the exploration of potential legal action.
“Standing outside in line for one to three hours, or receiving mail, including prescription medication and disability payments, that is two or even eight weeks past its postmark is not an acceptable level of service — here or anywhere in the country,” commented Crested Butte town manager Dara MacDonald in the press release.
So far, the USPS has refused to discuss the contracts with town leaders in places like Crested Butte, and denied a Freedom of Information Act request for the Amazon contract.
“We’re still exploring our legal options,” said Crested Butte town attorney Karl Hanlon. “Ideally the Postal Service or the Biden Administration will take action immediately and provide the resources and direction needed to solve these problems, but if they don’t my clients may force the issue in the courts.”
Bigger post office in CB…but not too big
Crested Butte is also looking at partnering with the USPS to use a large parcel of town-owned land along Sixth Street across from Gothic Field for a new North Valley post office. The current location has a lease that ends in a few years and the USPS has been notified it won’t be renewed, so a plan to service local citizens has to be in place before the 2026 lease expiration.
While the U.S. Post Office would like to have an 11,000-square-foot building on the Sixth Street site, the town is not on board with that large of a facility. They have told USPS representatives they would prefer a building between 7,000 and 9,000 square feet with satellite post office annexes located in populated areas throughout the North Valley. The town is intent on having the USPS open post offices annexes in Mt. Crested Butte and CB South as a part of any deal utilizing their property.