Reason for recent PO box forms remains unclear

Town believes lack of USPS communication adding to confusion

By Mark Reaman

Crested Butte post office box renters recently received a form asking for updated information about the user(s) of the box. Some interpreted the form as a possible first step on the path to getting a free PO box instead of having to pay an annual fee. Others saw it as a nefarious move to eliminate the potential for free boxes in the future.

James Boxrud, strategic communications specialist for the US Postal Service out of Denver, explained that the form is part of the process that comes with the eventual relocation of the Crested Butte post office. The USPS lease on the current Elk Avenue location expires in a few years and the USPS is searching for a new building in the 81224 zip code. If a building cannot be found, a new post office could be constructed on a piece of vacant land. The town of Crested Butte is in discussions with postal service real estate representatives about possibly using the vacant lot at the corner of Sixth Street and Gothic Avenue across from Gothic Field as a post office location.

Given political pressure the USPS is feeling from many rural Colorado communities, both because of the recent downturn in service quality and the threat of a potential lawsuit being organized by Crested Butte, Boxrud indicated USPS officials are in evaluation mode. 

“We’re currently evaluating various criteria for Crested Butte Post Office Box holders that take into account local laws, physical barriers, access to rural delivery etc. and reviewing who is eligible for Group E (Free) no fee Post Office Boxes in the future,” Boxrud said in an email. “The FS Form 1093 is a needed updated form we need for customers to fill out to update our records.”

Crested Butte town manager Dara MacDonald told the Crested Butte town council she recently filled out and returned the form but is still not entirely clear of its purpose. She told the council at the April 3 meeting that USPS officials have “not been particularly communicative about the mysterious forms that were in people’s PO boxes. I don’t think there is anything nefarious with them despite some community questions about that, but I do think they are bad communicators.”

Town attorney Karl Hanlon said he too “didn’t see anything other than normal business practices with the forms, but again, the communication has been horrible.”

Crested Butte mayor Ian Billick said the sudden appearance of the form with no explanation hasn’t done the Post Office any favors. 

“While we appreciate the efforts of the Post Office to improve services, it was disappointing to see how much confusion these notices created,” he said. “It’s a small community and a bit of proactive communication will go a long way. I read the letter several times and it was never clear why I got it, or what the consequences of returning it would be. Given the longstanding messiness and confusion over local mail delivery, locals were understandably reluctant to fill it out.”

We reached out to Boxrud after the town council meeting to ask if free boxes were indeed in Crested Butte’s future, but he did not respond by press time. Nor did he answer questions about how many PO boxes there were in the North Valley and how many forms have been returned. It is also not clear what happens if a boxholder does not complete the form.

Relocation discussion still happening with town

As for the upcoming facility move, Boxrud said the USPS regularly reviews space requirements for its 31,000 facilities in the Postal Service inventory. “There are seasonal, short-term constraints on facilities, especially during peak season when volume increases dramatically. But some facilities have year-round space challenges due to population growth and increased package volume,” he explained. “When this occurs, we review volume changes and prioritize those with the greatest need. Due to the loss of the (currently) leased location and the need for a larger facility, the Postal Service must relocate retail services to a yet-to-be-determined location within the zip code of 81224. The desired size of the new facility should be approximately 11,300 square feet with adequate parking.”

There are not many buildings in Crested Butte larger than 10,000 square feet. The town has consistently said that the hope is to not just have one central post office located in Crested Butte, but to also have satellite PO boxes in places like Mt. Crested Butte and Crested Butte South to disperse the impact. The town’s concept would also mean that a huge building would not be needed. 

Boxrud indicated that the USPS has a responsibility to service customers in the Crested Butte area and talks are in the works to do that without any interruptions. How it eventually happens has yet to be determined. “The relocation project will consist of procuring a suitable substitute location, as close as reasonably possible to the existing location. Retail services will continue at the current location until necessary preparations are completed at the new location.”

As for a possible lawsuit being filed against the USPS from rural Colorado towns, including Crested Butte, over lack of service, Hanlon said the issue is pushing forward. An update on the matter for the town council is expected to be held at the May 1 council meeting.

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