USPS responds to complaints: Residents still seeking answers

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The USPS has finally responded to resident’s concerns over shoddy mail delivery.

In about 600 words a United States Postal Service official responded to some of the problems Islanders have getting their mail, generally deflecting blame to others and offering little in the way of solutions.

“As a courtesy,” the two Post Offices on Shelter Island monitor the mail for ZIP code inaccuracies and those with the wrong ZIP code are placed in a tray and hand delivered to the other post office to determine if it is “deliverable,” said the written statement issued by USPS spokeswoman Congetta Chirichello. “It is part of the exceptional customer service provided by employees on Shelter Island,” Ms. Chirichello wrote. “We can achieve improvement by working with the mailers and third party vendors to validate address information and improve the quality and accuracy of addresses.”

The response on Shelter Island from a number of residents who attended an April 10 meeting with USPS manager Randy Sauber was that the USPS response was inadequate and failed to address many of the problems they continue to experience.

“They didn’t say anything,” said Councilman Peter Reich about Ms. Chirichello’s statement. He has experienced myriad problems getting mail, often because of company databases that change his ZIP code in Shelter Island Heights because it doesn’t match his street address in the Center. He credits local postmasters with doing their best to send mail between the two Post Offices. But not all succeeded and packages were sometimes misdirected, again, because company databases changed address information.

“Sure didn’t learn much from this,” he said after reading the full statement from the Postal Service.

The internal software used by various company databases isn’t “within the scope of the postal service’s responsibilities,” Ms. Chirichello wrote. That software is “distinct from the USPS Address Management System database.”

Bob Fredericks, another resident who has had difficulty receiving First Class mail, said the only “positive” he found in Ms. Chirichello’s response was the affirmation that local postal officials would continue to redirect mail between the Island’s two post offices.

“Unfortunately, this is what I expected — basically, they can and will do nothing to alleviate the problems Shelter Islanders have been experiencing for years,” Mr. Fredericks said. He suggested the postal service create a direct liaison with government agencies — the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, the state Tax Department, federal Social Security and others — to try to correct the problems residents are experiencing.

“Nothing will be done until the next uprising of rancor toward the USPS,” Mr. Fredericks said.

Dan Fokine, who was the first to contact the Reporter about his difficulties getting a cell phone and construction supplies delivered to the Island, said, “The mail was never to blame, only a glitch coupled with laziness and disregard.”

Barbara Warren, who had complained about her husband having to spend hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew an expired license because his renewal notice had never reached him, said nothing in Ms. Chirichello’s response spoke to such problems.

“I feel the postal response does not offer any solutions to the issues we have,” Ms. Warren said. She also reiterated a fact she mentioned at the April forum with Mr. Sauber: the New York State Comptroller’s website that lists unclaimed funds has a surprising number of Shelter Island residents who are due money.

Patricia Shillingburg said some problems are initiated by other post offices used by senders and she also noted that Islanders have difficulty getting enhanced drivers’ licenses that can be used in place of passports for travel between the United States and Mexico, Canada and some Caribbean Islands. Islanders’ licenses don’t carry street addresses, and that’s needed for an enhanced license.

Mr. Reich said he would take Ms. Chirichello’s response with him next time he goes to the Department of Motor Vehicles, noting that her response to DMV mix ups was that it’s an issue for the DMV to resolve.

In Ms. Chirichello’s response, there’s no mention of Board of Elections problems, but Wade Badger, the Island’s poll chairman, said at the April meeting that he suspected the reason so many long-time residents have found their names removed from registration rolls is that cards confirming their polling places were returned to the Suffolk County Board of Elections as undeliverable.

Congressman Tim Bishop’s spokesman, Oliver Longwell, said he was discussing the response from postal officials with his boss and anticipated Mr. Bishop would issue a statement shortly.

Editor’s note: See seperate post for the full USPS response.