Guest opinion: USPS blundered in closing W. Glenwood facility
The USPS announced on June 22, 2011, that the mail processing facility in West Glenwood employing 37 people would be closed in October of that year.
Selwyn Epperson, the USPS manager for Colorado and Wyoming, chose his words carefully and stated, “This move will not cause any changes in local mail delivery and the move will be smooth and transparent to our customers, and they will continue to receive the same excellent service they always had.” USPS spokesman Al DeSarro said, “Large volume business will be able to drop off mail at the Glenwood Springs Post Office Business Mail Entry Unit.” USPS spokesman John Hite said, “The Glenwood Springs Post Office incurred no additional workload or additional vehicular trips as a result of moving the sorting facility.”
What Selwyn Epperson did not tell the community was that USPS would move the truck terminal portion of the closed West Glenwood Sorting Facility to the downtown Glenwood Springs Post Office. That move transferred 12 semi-trucks driving daily through the commercial core business district to the Glenwood Springs Post Office. The mixed mail is then staged for dock transfer to smaller box trucks delivering to 15 area cities: Gypsum, Eagle, Wolcott Junction, Minturn, Red Cliff, Edwards, Avon, Vail, Carbondale, El Jebel, Basalt, Old Snowmass, Snowmass Village, Woody Creek and Aspen.
A unilateral decision made by the USPS for the move to downtown Glenwood Springs without the courtesy of prior notification, consensus, review or discussions with City Council. Postal Spokesman David Rupert: “We have been in discussions with all applicable departments in Glenwood Springs and we are appreciative of their support for our ongoing presence. All relevant zoning, noise and traffic regulations are being observed.” What the USPS uses is “governmental immunity” to skirt the intent of local land use ordinances. There is total disregard for the impact to the city, residents and visitors.
The USPS business model changed over the last two or three years, increasing truck traffic into Glenwood Springs with delivery of packages for FedEx, UPS, Amazon and other mail-order companies. The increase is particularly noticeable over the holiday seasons.
In the Post Independent news article on Aug. 24, USPS spokesman David Rupert is quoted: “Five years ago we delivered 3 billion packages and last year that number was 4.5 billion.” That translates to a 50 percent increase for deliveries from the Glenwood Springs Post Office.
The West Glenwood building should have been retained as a truck terminal and not sold. It was never appropriate for USPS to transfer the truck terminal operation to the downtown commercial core business district. The semi-trucks pulling 53-foot trailers often block the sidewalk at the post office.
City Council is considering an ordinance restricting the length of vehicles on city streets. City streets are narrow, not designed for heavy loads and inadequate for a safe turning radius of trucks pulling long trailers. The semi-trucks added congestion, environmental pollution and safety hazards to downtown. USPS trucks damages Glenwood Springs infrastructure, and in the last year have knocked down planters, signs, light poles and a fire hydrant. The city has been asked for these damage costs, as tax dollars should not be used to pay for USPS damage.
Truck traffic into downtown immediately created problems for the city of Glenwood Springs. The double lane right-hand turn onto Ninth from Grand Avenue is confusing and unsafe for both local traffic and visitors. The “unwanted noise pollution” generated by the loading and unloading activities echoing throughout the neighborhood at night and is detrimental to individual’s health. The quality of life for Glenwood citizens is greatly diminished. A neighborhood petition to USPS requesting relief from the night time truck terminal operation has fallen upon deaf ears.
Just how efficient is this USPS operation? USPS semi-trucks travel on Interstate 70 in both directions past Vail and Avon but do not stop to drop the mail. The trucks deliver the mail to Glenwood Springs. The mixed mail is resorted and transferred to smaller trucks and returned to Avon, Vail and all the other eight post offices that the semi-trucks passed by. The mail is double sorted, double handled and double trucked. There is a full-time USPS worker on the night shift to handle and distribute mixed mail. USPS brings in staff on overtime for holidays and weekends to distribute mixed mail.
That is a waste of valuable USPS resources. The USPS mail distribution system in our small part of the country wastes tens of thousands of dollars per year. Selwyn Epperson maintains that the operation is efficient and USPS has been doing it that way for decades. USPS should reallocate or transfer that wasted money to fund a loading dock transfer station in an appropriate industrial location. Keep the semi-trucks out of downtown Glenwood Springs.
I understand why USPS lost $26.4 billion in 2012-2014 and $5.1 billion in 2015. It appears that the USPS system is broken, wasteful and no one in the organization seems to care. How much of that $1.2 million justification per year was actually saved by closing the West Glenwood facility? Wasn’t all of the sorting and trucking of mail transferred to Grand Junction as USPS advised the community in a June 22, 2011, press release? It did not happen.
USPS continually maintains it is a good neighbor. The Glenwood Post Office is perfectly located and offers wonderful social capital for the community. The citizens of Glenwood Springs require a centrally located post office convenient for regular postal operations. True. However, it is not appropriate to have a “truck terminal” operating from the back door of a small post office in the downtown commercial core district.
Robert F. Gish lives directly behind the Glenwood Post Office on Pitkin Avenue and welcomes responses to his opinion addressed to email@example.com.
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