"Due to the decline in mail volume, we have completed route inspections resulting in two routes out of 80 being eliminated," regional spokesperson Kristy Anderson told the News Tribune. "The offices are working through the adjustments and businesses experiencing late delivery should be short term."
The U.S. Postal Service has cut routes in Duluth, leading to late deliveries and headaches for downtown businesses.
"There have been days when the mail isn't delivered until after the office closes," said Carrie Broers, executive director at the law firm Fryberger, Buchanan, Smith & Frederick. "People still depend on the mail for communication and payments. It's been a little frustrating."
The Postal Service said the late deliveries should be temporary.
A Duluth-based customer service representative responded to one downtown business complaint with a lengthier explanation:
"From time to time we reevaluate the workload on our delivery routes due to changes in mail volume, and the amount or type of deliveries served," the person wrote. "Balancing the workload for all delivery routes helps us meet our goal to provide you with timely, consistent, and quality delivery service at the lowest cost possible. ... Please know we are making every attempt to ensure our business customers receive their mail in a more timely fashion."
Laura Weintraub, CEO of Aimclear, called the late deliveries "untenable."
"Duluth businesses are already at a disadvantage with timely mail delivery compared to other business hubs, such as the Twin Cities," she said. "From managing cash flow to paying clients and vendors, adding what amounts to an extra day for delivery creates further needless strain. We encourage the USPS to rethink its delivery timelines, with consideration for how and when downtown businesses operate."
Steven LaFlamme, CEO of Oneida Realty, said many of his downtown business tenants have been affected and have reached out to the Postal Service.
"They’ve made some minor adjustments,” he said. “Hopefully by the end of next week they’ll have more specifics."
Representatives for the National Association of Letter Carriers union could not comment this week. The local branch of the union recently went through rebidding on its routes, resulting in a reshuffling of workloads.
"Management and ONLY management can create or abolish routes," reads a recent update from the Branch 114 website.
"I feel for the letter carriers themselves — it's not their fault," Broers said.
A report issued earlier this month by the USPS Inspector General found that as mail volume has dropped and thousands of jobs have been slashed nationwide, overtime costs for mail processing far exceeded the budget in the last fiscal year. The report laid some of the blame on a scheduling tool "used to optimize employee schedules and set a Postal Service-wide standard for establishing complement levels."
"It did not always schedule the right people, in the right place, at the right time," the report states.
Customers can contact the Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 or visit usps.com/help.