Like many other communities around the country, mail delivery in Philomath has been a problem for several months — at least in certain neighborhoods. Low staffing continues to be the most pressing issue. (Photo by balticboy/Getty Images via Canva)

Mail delivery problems that have plagued many residents in Philomath over the past several months appear to be getting better — at least that’s the initial presumption based on more recent experiences.

But it’s been a long time since local residents in certain neighborhoods have seen consistent mail delivery and patience with the U.S. Postal Service has worn thin. A number of locals dating back to this past spring have seen periods of no mail for days at a time or delivery occurring during the late-night hours.

As reported last summer, staffing problems have heavily impacted the local post office’s delivery capabilities. Kim Frum, a senior public relations representative with the U.S Postal Service, said last week that staffing continues to be a major issue.

“Due to continued staffing issues, there may be individual days when a neighborhood may not receive mail,” Frum said. “But we will rotate employees and assignments, and that mail is prioritized for delivery the following day. To meet the daily challenges, we are using every available resource at our disposal, including borrowing employees from facilities across the state to match the workload to continue to provide the service our customers deserve.

“But the Postal Service needs a physical presence, an employee to make that final delivery and our reliance on a vibrant and well-staffed workforce is perhaps more acute than other industries,” she added.

One local said he recently learned from the local postmaster that a new hire had just started working and he’s started to see improvements with daily mail delivery.

“Starting mid last week through yesterday we have received mail every day,” a resident on Vincent Street said on Jan. 10. “Hopefully that will continue and the issue is resolved.”

Another resident on Neabeack Hill who had been experiencing repeated mail delivery problems also said on Jan. 10, “We got mail delivered five consecutive days last week and yesterday! We haven’t had a full week of delivery since I can’t remember — at least over a year.”

Hiring and retaining postal service employees appears to be an ongoing problem. Philomath is not alone — an online search shows the same problems hitting communities all over the country.

“We are currently looking to hire several hundred employees across Oregon in the coming months,” Frum said. “This contrasts with many industries and businesses who are downsizing or constricting their staffing. These are solid jobs with the opportunity for excellent pay, full federal benefits and opportunities. We have Post Office locations in local neighborhoods across the state, allowing prospective employees the chance to work near home.”

Frum said multiple job fairs were held across the state in 2022 and more are coming this year.

“But anyone interested in a job with the Postal Service is welcome to visit their local office and inquire or go online,” she added. “Jobs are posted on the website every other Tuesday until we are fully staffed.”

A job search on the USPS website this week did not list any post office jobs in Philomath.

Some frustrated Philomath residents who have been repeatedly inconvenienced by mail delivery issues complained to the USPS. Leanna Perkins, a consumer affairs manager with the Idaho-Montana-Oregon District, referred to the staffing issue in an email sent to a local resident.

“While the Philomath Post Office works with continued staffing shortages, we’re also flexing every available resource, borrowing employees from other facilities, within our postal district,” Perkins wrote.

When mail doesn’t arrive, some residents go to the post office to try to pick it up. One local resident said she purchased a post office box at $198 per year with hopes of improving mail delivery.

Despite the mail delivery frustrations, most people don’t have bad things to say about the local postal workers who are trying to get the job done. 

Said Frum, “We appreciate the patience of our customers and the efforts of employees as conditions change on a day-to-day basis.”

Besides the staffing issues, some folks who have complained to the local post office have also been told that Amazon deliveries have stressed the system. One resident who talked to the postmaster was told that the post office does not receive any financial support to deliver those packages.

“I was at the P.O. the other day and they just look overworked in there — so many boxes and packages, thanks to them doing Amazon deliveries, which I think is terrible.” a Newton Street resident said.

Another resident said, “I picked up some mail in person from the P.O. this morning but it did not include any of the daily newspapers that are mailed to us or magazines. I was told this was because this type of mail comes in flats and they have not had time to open and distribute this mail. It seems this is the case because they are overwhelmed with Amazon packages.”

The USPS’s Frum did not answer questions regarding Amazon, including a request for information about any delivery agreement that might be in place between the post office and the e-commerce company.

Amazon’s public relations department did not respond to requests for an interview.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.

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