The Saratoga Sun -

Return to Sender: Encampment residents call for new postmaster

 

The mailing service at the United States Post Office in Encampment has been less than adequate since the arrival of a new postmaster, according to residents.

Many have complained of not getting their mail because Wendell O’Connell, who has been Encampment’s postmaster for several months, sends the mail back.

Some have had important bills sent back. Others have had medication sent back. For many, the change is affecting the quality of life in Encampment and Riverside.

“It’s affecting the citizens. It’s affecting everybody living here,” said Riverside Mayor Ron Bedwell.

The issue has stirred emotions and tensions in Encampment. But is O’Connell doing the community a disservice? Or is he just following post office protocol?

Whatever the case, community members, government officials and the U.S. Postal Service will meet in Encampment to discuss possible solutions.

Many believe the solution is replacing O’Connell.

“As soon as he walked through the door, the issues started,” said Jerry Paxton, representative for House District 47.

Paxton sent a letter and petition with 80 signatures to Wyoming representatives. Paxton said he has gotten responses from the offices of Sen. Mike Enzi, Sen. John Barrasso and Rep. Cynthia Lummis. Each office will have representation at the meeting, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at Encampment Town Hall, Paxton said.

“It’s been a very galvanizing issue with the folks here. It seems you don’t realize how much rural areas depend on a post office until you have less than good service,” Paxton said.

Paxton hopes the meeting will show residents and Wyoming’s representatives the problems the staff change has presented.

“Our hope is we can shine a spotlight on the issues that are going on here and get the attention of our delegates in Washington D.C.,” Paxton said.

Paxton said he, and many others, have been affected by O’Connell’s mail sorting.

“Everyone has a different story, and it seems I have heard a good share of them,” Paxton said.

O’Connell said he could not comment because he lacked authority to speak on the issue.

But Curt Artery, acting manager of postal operations for Wyoming, says O’Connell is simply doing his job.

Artery said the reason O’Connell is sending mail back is because it does not have the proper mailing address. Everyone in Encampment and Riverside has a P.O. Box. But some of the mail only comes with the customer’s street address. That mail is being returned, Artery said.

“What I am seeing is that pieces of mail are being returned because of insufficient addresses,” Artery said.

He said, residents should notify companies and let them know they have a P.O. Box, to ensure the mail will not be returned to sender.

Many residents complained that they never experienced these problems until O’Connell began working at the Encampment post office. Artery said there is no way for O’Connell to look up street addresses and find the right box.

“When somebody new comes in they don’t know the addresses, and it is under the assumption he can just type in ‘John Doe’ and look up the address. That is not the case,” Artery said.

Paxton said some mail delivered to Encampment residents through the U.S. Post Office requires a street address.

“They won’t take a P.O. Box,” Paxton said.

Paxton referred to UPS and FedEx mail delivery services that work through the Encampment U.S. Post Office.

Artery suggested writing the P.O. Box number next to the street address when dealing with FedEx or UPS, referring to it as a “Four line address”.

“I have very seldom seen where that format cannot be used,” Artery said.

O’Connell does have access to information connecting names and P.O. Boxes, but he doesn’t have time, according to new U.S. Postal Service standards, to look up names and deliver the mail, Artery said.

“The post office has changed a lot in the last three years, change being we have what is called P.O. box uptime,” Artery said. That time requires O’Connell to deliver all mail to the correct box by a specific time

“There is no way for him to do that if he is looking up addresses.”

Artery said he will be present at the Sept. 18 meeting to discuss further solutions with residents, he said.

Enzi’s office replied saying it is important to find solutions in this meeting.

“Senator Enzi recognizes the importance post offices play in local communities. He also recognizes that the needs of rural residents are far different than those in large cities,” said Dan Head, a spokesman for Enzi’s office. “There should be a level of flexibility in USPS procedures and that begins by talking to the locals to determine what methods could better ensure the timely delivery of mail.”

 

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