Delivery dilemma: U.S. Postal Office struggles to hire

TRAVERSE CITY — Long Lake Township resident John Merlo said he doesn’t receive mail every day.

He and Peninsula Township resident Pat Weber aid they’ve heard the same complaints from neighbors and people in their communities — no one is getting their mail consistently.

“I can go one day or two days without getting mail delivered,” Merlo said. “And sometimes the mail doesn’t get delivered until after 6 o’clock at night.”

Weber said sometimes she doesn’t get her mail until after 7 p.m.

The USPS brand hosted a job fair at its downtown and Barlow Street locations to try and make up for staffing shortages, officials said.

The goal is to inspire people to apply for carrier positions in the area, U.S. Post Office Operations Manager Carole Singer said.

Singer has worked for the postal service for the past 32 years.

“We are desperately seeking people,” she said. “We want to make sure that we have a full staff for the holidays, which we call a peak season.”

During the holidays, data from the U.S. Postal Service shows that the amount of packages it processes nearly doubles.

“We can get 30 pallets of packages regularly here,” Singer said, gesturing to the front of the post office. “However, during peak season we can easily get 60 to 70 pallets of packages, and that’s just from one company — that’s not including the rest.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Traverse City has been down from seven to 15 carriers between the two locations in town, but Singer said that is not unique.

“It’s not just us, it’s everybody in the area,” she remarked. “It’s everyone in the 496 area, which is the Up North ZIP code, ‘cause everybody needs help, it’s not just Traverse.”

“Traverse is just a little bit worse off,” she said. “That’s why we need more help here.”

Both Fife Lake and Kingsley are holding similar job fairs in the coming weeks to address the same staffing challenges, Singer said.

With between three to four retirements over the past year and cases of COVID-19, Singer said they have struggled to keep a full staff, a dilemma that is affecting other businesses in the Traverse City area — and elsewhere.

As election season begins, both Weber and Merlo said that they plan on dropping their absentee ballots off at their respective township halls to make sure they get in on time.

Grand Traverse County Clerk Bonnie Scheele said that they have already received absentee ballots in the mail from voters, and that the postal service knows to prioritize them.

“As far as I know, there’s no issue with absentee [ballots] going out right now,” Scheele said.

She estimates that approximately 50 percent of voters in the area will utilize mail-in ballots during this year’s midterm election.

At the end of July, Traverse City hired a new postmaster from Montana, who Singer said has prioritized trying to onboard more carriers and raise retention rates.

Some of the positions Singer said they are looking to fill include a rural carrier associate, city carrier associate, a clerk position and a part-time associate carrier position just for delivering packages on Sundays.


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