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COUNCIL CHRONICLES: 1.8.14
USPS hate mail
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – With Monday’s regular meeting of the Jackson Town Council dangerously close to wrapping up with a big fat yawn, councilman Jim Stanford rescued the ho-hum affair with a late-add agenda item: Where the hell is my package?
No doubt noting The Planet’s coverage (Props & Disses 1.1.14) of the Post Office woes plaguing the valley over the holidays, Stanford invited postmistress Jennifer Grutzmacher to address the board on just how effed up postal delivery in Jackson is and how it got that way. Grutzmacher played her part to perfection, always evading the question and when pressed, blaming federal regulations.
“All of us have experienced some degree of frustration in getting packages shipped here,” Stanford said referring to what seems like a new policy of commercial shippers like UPS and FedEx handing off packages to the USPS for the “last mile” of delivery. These packages – often originating from the e-commerce sector –usually don’t have a PO Box designated since hopeful recipients believe in the UPS guy’s ability to find us where the Post Office can’t.
“My understanding is the Post Office has been declining to deliver these packages and sending them back to shippers, and it seems to be getting more and more acute,” Stanford said. “I’ve heard gut-wrenching stories of people waiting on critical packages lost in limbo. How can we improve this? Right now it’s just unacceptable. It’s not servicing the residents of our community.”
Stanford’s gut-wrenching experience involved a hundred dollars worth of rotted cherries delivered to Bob Lenz some six weeks after shipping.
Grutzmacher admitted that packages dumped off by a private carrier at either PO location in town would be returned to the shipper if they did not have a box number on them. With a local staff of 21 whittled down to 13 by budget cuts, Grutzmacher said there just wasn’t enough time, especially during the Christmas crunch, to match physical addresses with PO boxes. Besides, she couldn’t if she wanted to.
Something called the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 pretty much forced her to send your XBox One back to Best Buy if it lacked a box number. Like most every well-intentioned federal law, the SOX Act was intended “to improve corporate governance and enhance the accuracy of…” blah, blah, blah. What it actually does is cost the USPS more money because they foot the bill to make sure the package gets back to the shipper.
Lenz and Mayor Mark Barron pointed out that when filling out delivery addresses on Amazon or wherever, retailer’s websites do not allow Post Office boxes to be entered into the second address line. Grutzmacher suggested they not use “PO” which lazy software looks for. “Just write ‘Box’ and your number. Or some people use the pound sign and then their box number. That’ll work,” the Jackson postmistress said.
Neither snow, nor rain, nor...
Stanford dug deeper. “I would like to broaden the discussion and find out why we can’t have a mail man,” he wondered. He cited the extra traffic created by thousands of Jackson residents having to drive their diesel trucks to the post office when one or two old-fashioned dog-bait mailmen could hand deliver letters to one’s house like they do everywhere in the civilized world. (Actually, only 85 percent of Americans have a mailman, Grutzmacher stated).
Grutzmacher admitted she was relatively new to the job but she heard from an ex-Wilson postmaster named Rupert who had heard from someone else that a vote was taken in the 1980s and Jackson residents made it loud and clear they wanted to go to the Post Office and wait in line for 45 minutes with their yellow cards.
“This vote from the 1980s – who took it and how?” Stanford said, exasperated. “It’s almost like urban legend at this point.”
“I can’t confirm this,” Grutzmacher admitted.
Stanford shifted tactics. “What if we said we want delivery and a mailman? Is there some way we could start down that road or are we too far gone?”
Grutzmacher said that kind of decision was above her pay scale but she could certainly pass on that desire to her higher-ups.
“And then we could have home delivery?” Lenz asked.
“Well, not exactly,” Grutzmacher answered. She explained USPS, again due to budget cuts, was not actually delivering mail to people’s houses anymore. Beginning a few years ago, anyone not grandfathered in with existing home delivery would be eligible only for centralized delivery, which is government speak for the mailbox cluster commonly seen at the mouth of many subdivisions.
Box renewal: Hell on earth
As long as Grutzmacher was on the hot seat, Barron was going to get his money’s worth. The mayor broached the other big gripe mailbox holders have with the local 83001 and 83002: The annual, teeth-pulling box renewal process.
“So if all the forms are filled out and verified, why is there such difficulty with getting your free box approved,” Barron wondered. “I mean, here you have a 20-year customer. We are a small community and we know each other and see each other on a regular basis. Your people are very polite but when that wall goes up there is nothing we can do. It’s like there is a secret code we don’t know but the person behind the counter does.”
Grutzmacher tried to explain that the arduous process was put in place by the infamous SOX Act and it was for everyone’s own protection. She also pointed out fine print – the kind in traditional 4-point font size – that clearly explained things, like that a primary box holder is the only one who can try to renew at the counter and other, more expensive options existed where federal employees would take time out of their coffee breaks to make an effort to look up your box number. “That costs extra,” she said.
Tired of grilling Grutzmacher in public, the council dismissed her only if she promised to leave her phone number with them so Lenz could at least track down his lost farm produce next time.
In other business: Twin cell tower proposals
AT&T brought forth two proposals for wireless communications towers in two locations: One on an existing 60-foot pole at the fairgrounds; another hidden away in the steeple of the Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church.
Councilman Bob Lenz didn’t care for the tower at the rodeo grounds. He wasn’t so worried about its proximity to humans, he just wondered why it couldn’t be off by itself somewhere on the property instead of right on top of the bleachers. Jim Stanford’s concern was potentially harmful RF emissions so close to the heads of people in the cheap seats.
AT&T representative Tory Garcia, with Powder River Development Services, told Lenz he figured la-de-da Jackson would appreciate the fact that AT&T was taking into consideration visual impact by going with what he called a “stealth approach” of disguising his tower as a light pole. He also explained to Stanford that the energy release of the tower was perfectly mitigated by the 40 feet of distance between the buzzing antennae and the nearest rodeo fan.
It passed with Lenz opposed.
“I was astonished to see this application,” Don Frank exclaimed, cluing Garcia in on the strict HOA rules governing Indian Trails. “Unless you have spoken to them this application is premature.”
Garcia said he hadn’t yet but was planning to. Frank assured Garcia that however grueling he thought the Town process was he would find Indian Trails HOA a living hell.
Garcia agreed to a continuance to give him time to read Indian Springs covenants. Frank also suggested he start looking for a different site now.
“Would you please ask your engineers if they can’t find an alternate location that would be a little better?” Frank urged. “I think you might find the path a little easier.”