CHATHAM, NJ — The U.S. Postal Service sent four representatives to Chatham Borough Hall on Friday morning and met with local officials to discuss ways to alleviate problems brought to its attention about unreliable mail delivery.
Keith Reid, post office operations manager, explained how he had brought in as many as 15 extra mail carriers from Westfield, Scotch Plains, Plainfield and other towns to take care of lagging deliveries in the Chathams. The meeting also produced hours in which a dedicated postal employee will be available at the Post Office Plaza building, where packages and mail are sorted, to answer questions.
Starting Monday, Dec. 11, a post office representative will be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Reid added that people can come to the same window to pick up packages from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The chaos created in mail delivery in Chatham with new employees, new management and the holiday season led to a "Perfect Storm," according to Reid.
In the meeting, Chatham Borough was represented by Mayor Bruce Harris (via conference call), council member Len Resto and administrator Steve Williams, who ran the meeting. Deputy Mayor Karen Swartz represented Chatham Township. The U.S. Post Office was represented by spokesperson George Flood; Bob Schultz, manager consumer and industry contact; Mariset Arroyo, marketing for Northern New Jersey, and Reid.
Swartz also credited Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen with his proactive efforts in setting up the meeting.
"I think the residents who spoke out should be commended," Swartz said. "They made sure we knew this was a serious problem and without them, this meeting never would have happened. We have assurances from the folks right here that we are going to see a marked improvement."
George Flood, the spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service, wants to open the lines of communication between citizens and the post office
On Monday, TAPinto Chatham reported that Chatham residents had not received mail for as many as five straight days and were seeking someone to speak to at the post office. The meeting on Friday certainly opened up the lines of communication.
Flood noted that residents can download a free APP that will tell residents what mail is expected to be delivered to their home through a machine that scans the mail as it comes into the post office.
"The staff in the sorting facility has changed due to retirements and there is a new postmaster who is new to the postmaster position," Williams said. "I guess it pushes back to two-and-a-half months that issues with the delivery have become evident.
"During the course of today's conversations, we have been assured by Keith (Reid), the post office manager, that the situation in Chatham has been rectified. There is no outstanding mail, the mail carriers are completing their routes between and 5 and 7, and he believes the learning curve of the new carriers is flattening out now."
Carriers from other towns were brought in to clear up the backlog. There were initially as many as 15 extra mail carriers, but that has been paired down to about seven now that the mail delivery is current, according to Reid. The Post Office also brought in six additional mail trucks specifically to handle packages.
"In addition to letter carriers, they're treating the parcel post, the packages, differently and those are being delivered to residents from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. by different mail carriers," Williams said.
Resto pointed out that Reid had set up a meeting with with Chatham mail carriers with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) "... so that employees can voice their concerns," Resto said. "I give Keith a lot of credit for having the foresight to do that."
Some mail carriers had been so overwhelmed that they had been delivering mail after dark wearing miners hats. Reid said that deliveries were being made as late ast 9 p.m. but that was cut down to 8 p.m. and now to 7 p.m. with the additional personnel.
Reid, who started working at the Chatham Post Office on Monday, said his conversations with Chatham residents were "courteous and respectful."