The removal of a blue drive-up U.S. Postal Service collection box in front of the Patterson Avenue branch in Goleta caused community concern over the weekend, and prompted calls to local elected officials, questions to branch supervisors, and multiple posts on Nextdoor forums and other social media.
Community members said the box, which was frequently used by residents, was removed without notice over the weekend.
As of Monday morning, several people had dropped off flowers and notes at the site, urging the Postal Service to install a replacement. A few said they found the timing of the removal “suspicious” in light of the funding and service delay issues faced by the agency.
Congressman Salud Carbajal announced Monday that the collection box would be replaced that evening.
“Thanks to all those who expressed concerns and helped make it clear that the Postal Service is vital to our community,” he said.
Blue boxes were installed at the site again by Tuesday morning.
Initial feedback from local post office officials suggested that the mailbox was removed “due to an ongoing problem with thieves fishing for mail,” according to Mannal Haddad, communications director for Carbajal. Haddad added that Carbajal’s office is continuing to ask about reasons for the removal.
A branch supervisor at the Patterson Avenue Post Office, who declined to give his full name, told Noozhawk on Monday morning that local staff were told the drive-up drop-off box needed to be modified, but were not given any dates as to when it would be removed or replaced.
Meiko Patton, a Postal Service public information officer, said collection box removals can be part of a yearly routine to identify redundant or seldomly used collection boxes as first-class mail volume declines.
Based on density testing, collection boxes are identified for potential removal and notices are placed on the boxes to give customers an opportunity to comment before the removal decision is made, Patton said in an emailed statement.
Patton said that given recent customer concerns, the Postal Service will postpone removing boxes for 90 days — until after the Nov. 3 general election.
“Across the country, operational changes implemented under the Trump-appointed postmaster general have degraded Postal Service operations and delayed mail delivery, amounting to an assault on one of our oldest and most cherished institutions,” Haddad said in a statement. “The congressman’s office will work to ensure the USPS has the resources and support necessary to continue providing critical services going forward.”
Concerns about mail delivery delays have become particularly timely with California and many other states implementing widespread vote-by-mail elections for Nov. 3.
There is federal legislation, the Delivering for America Act, under consideration that would prohibit the Postal Service from implementing any changes to operations that were in place on Jan. 1 until the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, said Carbajal, who plans to vote for the bill.
On Tuesday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy issued a general statement, sent to Noozhawk by Patton:
“The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall. Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards. The American public should know that this is our number one priority between now and election day. The 630,000 dedicated women and men of the Postal Service are committed, ready and proud to meet this sacred duty.”
DeJoy said no mail processing equipment, collecting boxes, or processing facilities will be closed or removed until after the election, even if they were already scheduled for this time.
— Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.