Crested Butte Post Office offering (some) free PO boxes

Staggered roll out to make it easy for all

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Post Office will this week start offering free post office boxes for local residents. Not every box will be free, only the smallest ones, and boxholders should not rush down to the post office since the process takes some time and the rollout will be staggered to make it easy for everyone.

The Crested Butte News got word of the change when a notice was placed in a post office box rented by a family member. It stated that the boxholder “qualifies for a Group E (free) PO Box.” An appointment time was included on the statement to meet with a local PO employee to go over the form and make a decision on whether to take advantage of the free box or stay with the current situation, which was the rental of a slightly larger box that continued to have a fee associated with it. 

When the family member went through the process, the postmaster explained the situation at the front counter of the CB Post Office. It took about 15 minutes. “Only the smallest boxes that accommodate the daily mail volume for a customer will be free,” said Crested Butte postmaster Anthony Ang. “If you have one of the small boxes already you still have to fill out a new form and if you want to change to a free small box there is a process to go through.”

Ang explained that the boxholders who filled out and returned the forms found in their boxes last March are at the top of the list for the free boxes. That will be followed by people with a Crested Butte street address. The rollout is being staggered to make the change to free boxes easy for both customers and postal employees. The USPS rule makes clear that Group E (free) boxes are only provided to those that handle “daily mail volume,” so anything larger comes with a fee. 

“If you didn’t fill out that form that was in the box last spring, do it now and get it back to us,” Ang advised when asked. 

Strategic communication specialist for the U.S. Postal Service out of Denver James Boxrud thanked the community for its patience as the process for determining the free boxes is wrapped up. 

“The process for determining eligibility for Group E boxes for the Crested Butte community is just about finished,” he said. “We have updated our address database and evaluated our delivery boundaries. We are now in the process of notifying customers that are found eligible for Group E (Free) PO Boxes. We are asking customers to follow the date on their individual letter. This will minimize the wait time in line at the counter in the Crested Butte Post Office.”

Boxholders will get a refund if they decide to switch from a larger box to one of the smaller ones. If the choice is made to keep a current box that is larger than a qualifying free post office box, the fee for the box rental will continue.

There are about 3,000 total post office boxes located between the two Crested Butte locations. More boxes are located in Crested Butte South and Skyland but those are not controlled by the USPS. 

As was the case with our family member, Ang anticipates that a lot of people are tied to the post office box they have had for years or even decades and will be hesitant to change the box, which would include changing the box number. “That is up to the individual, but I anticipate many people will choose to stay with the box they have had here for a long time,” Ang said.

“This is a big move for us, but it should be pretty painless to get people switched to the free boxes,” Ang concluded. “But a choice will have to be made and we are here to provide information so that people can understand the choice.”

When asked during the application process when the shift to free boxes would be complete, Ang said he hopes to have the conversion process completed for everyone who currently has a PO box they pay for and now wants a free one as soon as possible, but he had no firm date when that would be. 

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