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UPDATE: Delays and confusion at Center Post Office: Volume of mail, staffing cited for problem

Lines were long and tempers short at the Center Post Office during several days this week, reportedly from a problem with package deliveries. Residents complained that they came to pick up a package, only to be told that the post office had been returning packages to senders within one day of delivery if they had not been picked up.

Questions and conversations ensued between postal patrons and staff, slowing down progress to the point where the line for pickup extended out the door and down the sidewalk.

Rob Sloan said Saturday morning, on one of the hottest days of the year, he waited 40 minutes to get to the desk with a yellow card indicating he had a package, but was told when he finally saw a Post Office employee that the package was not there. Another resident told the Reporter he learned a package had mistakenly gone to the Heights Post Office; when he inquired there he was told it had been returned.

Other residents have complained that their packages were given to someone else, and posted on Facebook in hopes of tracking them down.

In response to complaints this week, the Reporter contacted United States Postal Service (USPS) spokesperson Maureen Marion, who handles media inquiries for the Long Island region. Ms. Marion responded with information compiled from USPS management, who said that “it {has] not been business as usual across Long Island, where many of our communities saw an early migration of residents beyond the number of our typical seasonal guests.”

Ms. Marion noted that Long Island Post Offices are seeing a 64% increase in the amount of packages at its locations this week compared to last year at the same time, adding that this is happening nationwide. 

USPS stated that mail is held for three days, but the majority of complaints the Reporter has received were from patrons whose packages had been returned by the Center Post Office after one day. Inquiries regarding the Heights Post Office did not turn up a similar volume of complaints.

The USPS response also noted that Islanders need to use a street address as well as a PO Box when ordering online, since some platforms won’t accept PO Box numbers. Doing so reduces confusion and sorting delays. It was also stated that an additional helper had been added at the Post Office. Nevertheless, the lines outside suggest the problem has worsened, not improved.

Another USPS regional official, Francine V. Segarra, responded to questions about extremely poor service by saying that “staffing challenges in offices such as Shelter Island and Shelter Island Heights” were already happening “before the volume increase.”

Yet another USPS Long Island district manager, Laurel Stengel, when asked about staffing at the Center Post Office, responded by saying, “There is an employee from Shelter Island that is out on extended leave that we cannot replace while they hold that position. We had a clerk posting for Long Island that closed on July 15th and our HR team is currently going through the applications to fill any authorized vacant positions … When we have availability issues in an office due to extended leave (such as in Shelter Island which is not considered a vacant position), we have to borrow employees from other offices to assist, which is what we have been doing for this office.” 

Supervisor Gerry Siller said his office has been in touch with the regional director, who blamed staffing shortages. He said he had asked Councilman Jim Colligan to look into the situation and report back to his Town Board colleagues.