Post Office

The Ellensburg United States Post Office at the intersection of Third Avenue and Pearl Street.

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Call it what you want — heavy parcel load, the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of employees because of early retirement, heavy turnover, the Ellensburg Post Office is outmanned and outgunned when it comes to parcel delivery and it’s leading to long lines at the office.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said one Ellensburg Post Office employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I come in at 5:30 in the morning and don’t leave until 8:30 at night. People here are working 12-hour days, 60 hours a week trying catch up. I don’t see any relief in sight and it’s not even December.”

LONG LINES

As for the long lines in Ellensburg, chalk it up to Amazon Prime and additional parcel shipping orders.

“When the pandemic started, it’s been like Christmas ever since,” the Ellensburg employee said. “Amazon Prime is increasing its deliveries and we don’t have enough carriers to handle the amount of mail Amazon is pushing on us from people ordering online.

“We’re running out of hours working in the day. Our people are working over 12 hour days, 60 plus hours a week. We are in the process of hiring people, it’s a matter of getting them on board and trained.”

As far as personnel, the Ellensburg Post Office needs seven more clerks, 10-12 rural carrier relief drivers, and three or four more city mail carriers, the employee said. But the big factor in the slowdown is parcel delivery.

AMAZON PRIME

“Amazon is delivering twice in the morning and again in the afternoon. Our morning delivery the other day was 14 pallets and another nine pallets that the afternoon,” they said. “We’re just not getting caught up.”

Yakima union president Paul Patnode has been an electronic technician for 28 years and said the increased parcel demand, coupled with increased turnover, is putting an incredible strain on the delivery process.

“April Barry used to be a letter carrier here in Yakima, who was promoted into a supervisory role before getting into Ellensburg as the post master. She’s been picking and choosing as far as getting any supervisors in there,” Patnode said. “She’s the post master and she’s supposed to have a supervisor under her to help with the day-to-day.

“I’m going on 28 years in the Yakima branch and I’ve never seen it so disorganized. We’ve had a heavy parcel load with all the COVID-19 going on with all the online shopping. Our letter delivery is actually down, so it’s mostly parcels and that’s where the issues are occurring.”

Despite long lines with one or two clerks doing the service work, people in Ellensburg have been fairly understanding.

UNDERSTANDING

In her email to the Daily Record, Kim Nehl said, “I’m asking what we, the citizens, can do to help alleviate the mail tsunami that hit Ellensburg over the weekend. I had a package that was expected to be delivered on Oct 16. That was the day the Amazon Prime tsunami hit and we are now being told to not even try to come in and get our packages,” she said. “Apparently, we need to just wait a week for things to get worked through. But what I am hoping for, is a line of communication so I can tell them ‘Hey, don’t worry about trying to deliver it, just tell me when I can pick it up.”

“What’s happening (at the Ellensburg Post Office) is that we can’t go digging through the containers because there’s just too many containers to look through. That’s what’s taking all the time,” the Ellensburg postal employee said. “Amazon is sending emails to people saying your package is available to pick up at the post office.

“Amazon is covering its tracks and we’re overwhelmed with the number of pallets that are coming in. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

ELECTON BALLOTS

The employee did say that Presidential Election ballots have been delivered and the current crisis will not adversely affect the election process.

Postal officials have repeatedly said the agency has more than enough capacity to handle the surge of ballots, and its leaders have committed to prioritizing election mail, according to Corporate Communications Field Center/Seattle spokesman Ernie Swanson.

“Washington state has been handling mail-in ballots for over three decades. We have a very professional election crew that will work the election exclusively,” he said. “This year with the pandemic is nothing new and we will handle election ballots like we always have.”

ON-TIME DELIVERY

But on-time delivery rates vary depending on where you live, and the service has been falling short of its internal goals to deliver all first-class mail within five days, according to the Associated Press.

On top of that, each state has different rules on whether it accepts mail ballots that arrive after Election Day, the AP reported. Some policies are the subject of court cases and could change before Nov. 3, so voters should check with local election officials if they are unsure. All that is to say, the earlier you mail your ballot, the better.

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