Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 23, 2005

Postal officials come to Winsted council to explain processes

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

As a last resort to unresolved frustrations with the Winsted Post Office, Winsted Mayor Don Guggemos wrote a letter to Senator Norm Coleman to ask for his assistance last fall.

A representative from Coleman’s office, along with several other postal service officials, were present at a city council workshop Tuesday night.

Guggemos had several points of frustration with the post office, including letters being returned to the sender due to incorrect addressing, and “nasty-grams” written on letters that do make it to the addressee, telling them to use the correct addressing process.

“To put a note on my mail saying my box isn’t on there – that does nothing,” Guggemos said.

Winsted resident Jack Hahn was present at the meeting and showed a letter that was delivered to him, but had notes about the addressing being incorrect written in bold, black marker on it.

Winsted business owner Tim Sheehan said when he gets a letter in the mail that has a note about incorrect addressing on it, his office contacts the sender and requests they update the address so it is correct on future mailings.

The local post office admits that 80 percent of the mail without a post office box (written on the outside of the envelope) is deliverable, but they aren’t allowed adequate time to distribute the mail, even though they know the addresses, Guggemos wrote in his letter to Coleman.

“While it is our policy to deliver improperly addressed mail when the employee handling the mail is certain of its proper delivery point, poor addressing may result in the return of mail to the sender,” wrote United States Postal Service Government Relations Manager Sheila Meyers in response to Guggemos’ letter.

The problem with this is with new postal employees who may be unfamiliar with the area and may not know local residents. The clerks cannot be absolutely certain of the correct delivery point, which may result in returned letters. Years ago, those letters simply would have been delivered because post office staff knew the person who the letter was intended for.

“We had some long-term employees at the post office for many years,” Ollig said. “To some extent, we’re a little spoiled.”

“Small communities are becoming big cities,” said Chaska Postmaster Doug Lingen, who was representing the postal service. “We all have to understand that times change – the postal service is trying to stay competitive.”

Automation a key factor

Lingen explained that across the United States, postal officials are supposed to keep the same standards for addressing mail.

He said with more and more mail being handled by machines, fewer pieces are being handled by mail clerks, and if an address is not complete, it will automatically get returned to the sender.

The machines read the letters from the bottom up – meaning the post office box has to be on the line directly above the city, state, and ZIP code. Lingen proceeded to discuss the automation process, and how mail is being sorted, and how it is expected to be sorted in the future.

Winsted Postmaster Katie Olson also brought up the “urban myth” that if the additional four numbers are placed behind the ZIP code, the actual post office box does not need to be in the address, which is untrue.

“A lot of this stuff you’re telling us, we understand,” Guggemos said. “It’s some of the little things that get frustrating.”

This brought up the issue of the trash receptacles being removed from the lobby of the post office last fall.

Olson said the baskets were removed primarily due to children tipping them over after business hours. She was told she should have contacted the city about that before pulling the trash cans out of the lobby, to which she replied she had spoken with Winsted Police Chief Mike Henrich about the issue.

Olson also said last fall, the trash cans were removed as an attempt to train people to take mail home with them and, if they don’t want it, to throw it away there. She said she does not have funds or extra clerk hours for a recycling dumpster.

“When we had ours removed, we had a new resident in town, and he said this was the messiest lobby he had ever seen,” said Council Member Tom Wiemiller.

“Anything in my box – you have to put in there,” Guggemos said. “But I do not have to take it to my home.”

The trash cans were replaced shortly after the issue was addressed. Guggemos also brought up the fact that a tentative agreement is in the works with a mailing company, DB Direct of Delano, to re-locate its operations to Winsted, and he is wondering what kind of cooperation the company will have with the local post office.

“These sound like some legitimate concerns, but they may not involve us,” said DB Direct Vice President Joe Remer, who lives just outside of Winsted.

“It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the system we have, and people can get a good service for a reasonable cost,” Remer said.

The postal representatives present agreed the ultimate goal is to deliver the mail in a timely manner.

“All we’re trying to do is get the mail to where it belongs, if we know where it belongs,” said Susan McInnis, manager of post office operations in Minneapolis, noting that in order to do that, automation is the way it’s going to be done, and mail must be properly addressed.

“If we don’t use automation, the rates are going to go up,” she said.

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