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January 31, 2015

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Postal Service: Whew, we finally found the mailbox keys

Westridge postal station

The U.S. Postal Service promises to deliver mail despite rain, sleet or dark of night.

But nobody mentioned someone losing the keys to the community mailboxes.

And that’s why mail couldn’t be delivered to about 1,200 customers in Mountain’s Edge for three days last week.

Bill Dugatkin, a retired morning radio DJ from back East, thought it was a bit weird when he got no mail last Thursday. “I always get something, even if it’s just junk.” On Friday, when there was no mail, he called the post office to inquire. He was invited to come to the station to pick up his mail, but to hear him say it, nobody there knew why the mail hadn’t been delivered.

On Saturday, there was still no mail delivery for customers served by the Westridge station on Russell Road. At the mailbox cluster on his street, there was a note from his homeowners association alerting everyone that there was a delivery disruption. No reason was given, but there was speculation that the private contractor who delivers the mail to the edge of the mountain was having some sort of beef with the post office. Maybe the mail was being held hostage!

At the Westridge station, Dugatkin started introducing himself to neighbors he had never met, now standing in line with him to claim their mail.

On Friday, Dugatkin called the Sun. We, in turn, called the post office but there was no answer. It was 4:45 p.m.; maybe they knock off early.

On Monday, we talked to Bonnie at the post office, who said she would ask someone to call us. No one did. We tried calling the official post office spokeswoman for the region, but just got her voice mail.

On Tuesday, she called us back. Her name is Marilyn Fennimore, and she sounded very nice and quite genuine.

The post office, she said, was upgrading the locks on the community mailbox clusters to improve security. When the locks were installed, the keys were taken back to the post office so letter carriers could open the devices and put mail in each cubbyhole the next day.

(Those devices are called Neighborhood Delivery and Collection Box Units, Fennimore said, otherwise known by the acronym NDBCU. But wait — that acronym has two letters transposed! Hmmm, said Fennimore. Well, that’s how it’s written.)

Back to the missing keys: On Thursday, nobody could find them. Nor were they found Friday, nor Saturday. It’s unclear if the search continued Sunday. Finally, on Monday, the keys were found, in a walk-in vault, and mail delivery resumed Tuesday.

Fennimore won’t say how they ended up in the vault, or how they were discovered. One imagines someone inside the vault piping up, “Did anyone lose a set of keys? Got ’em!”

And Fennimore won’t discuss the vault, for security reasons. So we don’t know if they were on the floor or on a shelf or inside a box.

“I’ve worked over 30 years, and this is a first for me,” Fennimore said of the missing keys. “Just a miscommunication. It was human error. We feel bad it happened, bad for the customers. We’re all human and we make mistakes.”

Were the customers at least notified last week that their mail was stalled because of missing keys?

“Not that I know of,” Fennimore said. “I have asked that question, and I’m not getting a straight answer.”

That may be the most honest answer a representative of the post office has ever given. Like we said about Fennimore: She is very nice and quite genuine.

We asked Fennimore if she likes being a spokeswoman for the post office.

“Most of the time,” she said.

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  1. "Outsourcing"...

    All of you "privatize the Goverment" folks have NO CLUE how awful your services can get when PROFIT is the sole motive!

    "Be careful what you ask for; you just might get it."

  2. vmanstuff,

    You are misstating the facts of the story. The problem had nothing to do with letter carriers (Postal Service or contractors) leaving the station and forgetting the keys to the boxes.

    The problem was, the keys were misplaced at the station after maintenance work was done, and nobody knew where they were.