A season of discontent

The front entrance of the Williston Post Office

Mail delivery craters in Williston

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Getting your mail in Williston increasingly means actually going to get your mail, at the post office on Blair Park Road.

Delivery in most areas of town has been reduced to an intermittent, unpredictable trickle. The extent of the staffing shortage is the subject of much conjecture among residents, who have corroborated experiences with neighbors, talked with mail carriers and asked employees working the window at the post office.

Fran Stoddard began noticing gaps in mail delivery of multiple days in September. Her husband runs a business out of their home and was reliant on home delivery and pickup of packages. When a mail carrier would arrive in recent weeks, Stoddard would question them about the situation. 

“The crux of the problem is they lost five out of eight carriers in a short period of time. One of them was our carrier,” said Stoddard, who lives on the southwest side of town. “It is basically, from what I can tell, kind of a perfect storm of a lot of people leaving at once.”

A help wanted sign outside the Williston Post Office earlier this year. Observer file photo.

Steve Doherty, communications specialist for the Post Office’s Northeast Region, did not return calls seeking verification of the extent of the staffing shortage. On Blair Park Road, the post office is checkered with help wanted signs of all shapes and sizes. Stoddard was there last Friday, picking up her mail along with others who had formed a line and were calling out their addresses to clerks.

“There is a real back up and they are scrambling to get it together,” Stoddard said. “Willistonians should know, the mail isn’t going to come some days. It’s going to come when they can handle it.”

Fran Hopkins said she and her neighbors went four days without mail delivery at Whitney Hill Homestead in the Village last week. She was anticipating delivery of a package last Tuesday; online tracking showed it had already arrived in Williston. As the days passed without delivery, she called the post office to ask if she could pick up the package, but was told it was in a pile that had not yet been sorted. It finally arrived in her mailbox on Saturday.

“This is a very good post office. They are incredibly hard-working. But they are between a rock and a hard place,” Hopkins said. “When it comes to sorting the mail, getting it into the specific trucks that go to the specific areas, they are having trouble.”

Recently, while waiting in line at the post office, she heard a resident ask if a rumor that the post office was down to just one mail carrier for the entire town was true. While that does not appear to be the case, a lack of communication about the situation from postal officials has caused some anger and frustration. 

“They don’t want to talk about it,” said one patron who wished to remain anonymous outside the post office Saturday morning. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

The patron has called Sen. Bernie Sanders’ office to seek a remedy for the situation, and knows several other Williston residents who have done the same.

“I’m just very angry,” they said. “The service has been lousy … The attitude of the clerks, which has always been great, has also really gone downhill. Something’s got to be done.”

Chris Conant of Williston advises residents recalibrate their expectations of the post office, especially in light of the upcoming holiday rush and the ongoing pandemic.

“Please be patient with everyone in the service industry right now … (They are) stressed to the max, over worked in hours and covering many different tasks or shifts,” he said. “Let’s all try to take a step back and help our neighbors, family and friends navigate this new world we are living in. Let’s have tons of patience and kindness, even toward strangers. We all need it, even those postal workers who are trying very hard to keep up.”