Years have passed since residents of Marvel and Hesperus began to raise concerns about the inconsistent service of the U.S. Postal Service in their rural communities. But there has been little improvement, they say, despite complaints that have reached the ears of the state’s congressional delegation.
“We’re in the process of building a home and we come up and we work on that in the summers, and the goal is to be here full time,” said Kline resident Laura Lamb. “But at this point, we’re kind of starting to question whether or not that’s a reality because of the mail issue.”
Lamb has experienced a litany of problems with the post office since moving to the area in 2021.
And she is not alone.
An aide to Sen. Michael Bennet said there was a notable increase in the number of complaints about post offices across the state in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
“For the past three years, we saw elevated constituent concerns from La Plata County residents – those that either use the Hesperus or Marvel offices or receive mail from those offices,” the aide said.
Amenities are sparse on the western side of La Plata County. There is little in the way of infrastructure, many roads are unpaved and water flowing from the sink is not a given.
Residents there rely on the postal system for deliveries critical to their businesses or livelihood.
Staffing problems caused by low pay left a gap in the system.
The Hesperus and Marvel post offices operate under the management of the Durango office. In an email to The Durango Herald, a spokesman confirmed that the USPS is looking to hire close to a dozen employees to staff the three offices.
Depending on the position, the hourly wage ranges from $19.94 to $22.13.
But some residents say that the problems are not just because of inadequate staffing, but allege that they are personal.
In Lamb’s case, she said one particular employee was the cause of her problems. Lamb said that the employee, whose first name is Nancy, gave her a hard time when she tried to arrange mail delivery to her new home. Eventually, Lamb gave up on delivery and rented a post office box. But the mail still got returned as undeliverable, or simply disappeared.
Lamb’s troubles did not end there.
“After we confronted her and then filed a complaint about her, then she drilled out the lock to our post office box, re-keyed it and didn’t give us the key, so we couldn’t get into our post office box,” Lamb said.
The USPS spokesman did not comment directly about the accusation calling out the specific employee, but said the post office is “always concerned when a customer is not satisfied with the way we conduct a transaction or provide a service.”
“As with any service organization, quality customer service from professional, courteous, and friendly employees is vital,” he added. “Should anyone ever experience a customer service issue, we encourage them to ask for the manager on-site. Personal consultation ensures direct attention.”
It is best to file complaints online because the system is tracked. Complaints made over the phone are not as well-documented.
Another resident said she waited more than six months for a large check that got held up at the post office. The resident asked that she remain anonymous because she feared retribution and said “I do not want my postal service to get any worse.”
Amy Reid, a Marvel resident, said Nancy returned her mail to the sender as “retaliation” because Reid ordered live poultry after Nancy asked her not to, citing an allergy. A clerk at the Hesperus post office who identified herself as Nancy (and declined to give a last name) confirmed she was allergic to chickens, but said that was “no longer an issue” because there is now another employee running the Marvel office.
La Plata County commissioners have brought the issue to the attention of Bennet and Rep. Lauren Boebert. Both lawmakers have said they would work to address the matter.
Bennet met with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in March after repeatedly sending him letters highlighting constituent concerns. The lawmaker’s aide said the postmaster heard the complaints and that “Senator Bennett’s office will continue to monitor this situation.”