April 12, 2006 — Delegate Donna M. Christensen met Wednesday with regional officials of the U.S. Postal Service at her St. Croix office to discuss several items of concern to the territory. Christensen met Tom Pino, manager of Postal Real Estate Assets and Facilities; Priscilla Maney, the new Caribbean district manager; Lou Demeo, postal operations manager, Caribbean district; William Downs, on contract with the deputy postmaster general; and Postmaster Louis Jackson of the Frederiksted post office, according to a release from her office.
"We discussed plans for the Sunny Isle and St. John post offices and the improvements that are needed in employee relations and customer service," Christensen said in the press release. "I took the opportunity to address constituent issues that have been repeatedly brought to my attention such as delayed mail, the holding and opening of packages by the Customs Bureau, and the late arrival of periodicals like Time and Newsweek."
More than a year ago in an interview with the Source, Robert Allen, who had at that time been hired to come to the Virgin Islands to straighten out the distribution problems, said he had developed an action plan that he had submitted to the Puerto Rico District. "The problem here is logistics," Allen said last year.
The St. Thomas district mail is routed through Jacksonville, Fla., then to Puerto Rico, and then to St. Thomas, he said. However, it is not automatically sorted in Puerto Rico, and that is a bottleneck, according to Allen.
Whatever plan Allen submitted does not seem to have solved any of the problems. Parcel post still takes up to eight weeks to get to the island, and residents have never stopped complaining about getting February's magazines in April.
On Wednesday night Christensen said she was working with postal officials, "to try and figure out a different way to route them [periodicals] so they'll get here quicker."
But, she said, the postal officials were not in the territory to discuss service. She said they were here to address, "facilities issues." However, she said, she took the opportunity to bring up the territory's delivery problems. Christensen said, "There are bottlenecks in both directions which they will look at because they [the bottlenecks] clearly are before they get to the V.I."
According to Christensen, problems with outgoing mail are related to Customs and Border Patrol practices. She said, "Customs has to scan everything coming from outside the U.S. Customs zone."
Christensen said, however, that there is "no excuse" for three-week delays and longer. "There are ways we are looking at to give them [Customs] enough information so they don't have to open as many [packages] as they do."
Magazines arrive via surface (i.e., slow boat) mail. Christensen said the postal service is "looking at ways to get them straight here so there is no bottleneck in Puerto Rico and other ways to get them to the customer quicker."
She said that the group discussed several approaches to remedy concerns. "I intend to visit postal operations and facilities next week," Christensen said, "and I intend to hold town meetings with postal officials and the general public by the end of May." Christensen said she will meet this week with postal officials relative to the facilities questions throughout the territory, including one to finalize the St. John post office issue. (See "Government Comes Up With New Post Office Proposal").
She said, "The meeting to try and come up with a definite site — Vendors Plaza or Guinea Grove — will be tomorrow [Thursday]. Both have problems, but the money may not be there if the team cannot make a definite presentation by the beginning of May."
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