Complaints of delays and unreceived mail have begun cropping up in Stowe like weeds, just as all the rest of the grass has begun to brown and the holiday season begins in earnest.

Complaints about missing mail and problems with the Stowe Post Office have appeared everywhere, mostly on social media forums and in letters and emails sent to the Stowe Reporter.

Mail received long after it was sent, mail never arriving at its destination at all, erratic and random delivery: these are just some of the reported issues. Stowe resident Scott Weathers submitted a change of address form and ended up missing weeks of mail.

Weathers’ assumption and a common one among Stowe residents is that local mail issues are a symptom of broader national dysfunction in the postal system stemming from its federal director.

“It’s not the folks working at the post office. It’s not their fault. They’re working incredibly, incredibly hard,” Weathers said. “But I do think the cuts that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has been putting into place probably had something to do with it.”

While DeJoy has been adamant that the U.S. Postal Service is ready for the holiday surge, problems like the ones that afflicted the 2020 holiday season, which DeJoy generally blamed on the pandemic, are already reoccurring.

And the problems are not just happening in Stowe. They are being reported throughout Lamoille County, in Chittenden County towns such as South Burlington, Shelburne, and beyond.

In a Nov. 17 interview with National Public Radio’s Marketplace program, DeJoy said, “We are ready” when asked about mail delivery for the holiday season, but also discussed a recently implemented 10-year austerity campaign to reduce costs at the postal service.

The plan has intentionally slowed the delivery of mail, particularly to rural addresses, and increased postage rates.

“We have 31,000 retail centers, we have 20,000 delivery units and we have no money,” DeJoy told Marketplace.

In the interview, the postmaster general also eschewed questions of policy and questions about alleged conflicts of interest, claiming that he was attempting to right a federal institution that was in crisis.

Steve Doherty, a postal service communications representative for the Northeast region, said he couldn’t comment on Stowe’s problems in a broad sense.

“I couldn’t speak to a particular delay issue without more information on the address involved. Customers who feel they have delivery issues are urged to call our customer service center at 1-800-275-8777 (1-800-ASK-USPS),” he said. “That way their concern can be documented and followed up for a prompt resolution. Our customer care agents can also watch for trends that may indicate a more systemic problem.”

Hiring woes

A more local crisis may also be contributing to Stowe postal issues. Like every other employer in Vermont — for months now — the post office is reportedly struggling to maintain its staff.

While Stowe Post Office’s officer-in-charge Kristine McAllister was unable to speak with the Stowe Reporter due to postal service policy, a postal operations manager in the Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire district confirmed on background that post offices throughout the region are struggling to hire.

According to a letter to the editor from Stowe resident Geoff Lindemer, his local carrier confirmed as much. Lindemer reached out to the unnamed carrier after experiencing issues with erratic mail delivery.

“She let me know that our delivery problems, while widespread in Stowe, are not limited to Stowe,” Lindemer said. “Similar problems exist in other towns. She assured me that all mail the post office receives is delivered, yet I reported that we are still waiting for a subscription that is eight days late. While staff shortages are more acute than normal, our post office staff continue doing their usual good jobs.”

McAllister was only just appointed to her position heading the Stowe office in October, according to the USPS website.

Though it’s unclear when or why he stepped down or was removed from the position, the former head of the branch was Derrick Lemnah, appointed postmaster in October 2018. Lemnah was arrested this past July by Stowe Police for a fourth offense of driving under the influence and with negligent operation and cruelty to a child after he crashed his vehicle on Moscow Road.

“When a postmaster retires or moves on to another position, it’s routine to assign an officer-in-charge to fill that role while the process of selecting a new postmaster is underway. In many cases, the officer-in-charge may, in fact, become the next postmaster. But, either way, the process assures continued oversight of the office and should have no negative impact on service,” Doherty said.

Though many readers of the Stowe Reporter did not see their newspapers in their mailboxes on time last week, that issue was due to a printing problem and not with the local post office.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexual language.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be proactive. Use the "Report" link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.