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Mail delays in Raleigh, other U.S. cities 'part of a larger story'

Mail delays in Raleigh, other U.S. cities 'part of a larger story'

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RALEIGH — Staffing issues and overburdened routes at a post office in the state capital delayed the delivery of thousands of pieces of mail and packages, an audit found.

Inspectors from the U.S. Postal Service conducted the audit of the Avent Ferry Station in Raleigh over three months, from November 2020 to January 2021, according to the report.

On a site visit in November, inspectors found an estimated 6,048 “letters and flats” and 182 packages had still not been sent out for delivery that day. The delays spanned 27 city routes and four rural routes, according to the report.

Station staff blamed the delays on a shortage of employees and overburdened delivery routes, according to the report. As of Jan. 19, there were 21 unfilled positions at the post office: 17 full-time carriers, two full-time clerks and two management positions.

Philip Bogenberger, a spokesman for the Postal Service, declined to comment Tuesday when The News & Observer asked how many people currently work at the station and how many vacancies remain.

In a Jan. 12 response included in the audit report, Greensboro District Manager Russell Gardner agreed with all findings, and said the office would be taking steps to ensure stricter adherence to protocols and begin hiring new staff.

Philip Rubio, a professor of history at N.C. A&T who has studied the Postal Service extensively, said the losses at the Raleigh station would have a large impact on operations.

“I’ve carried those kinds of routes,” said Rubio, who worked as a mail carrier for the Postal Service for 20 years before turning to academia. “It was hopeless to get it done in eight hours.”

He added that the past year has introduced other difficulties for postal workers nationwide, like an uptick in mail as people rely more on deliveries amid the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing shortages exacerbated by workers forced to quarantine and cost-cutting measures implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that caused delays across the country.

The U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General has released seven audit reports since November — including the Raleigh station — with additional reported concerns in Illinois, Texas, Missouri and New Hampshire.

In the Raleigh audit, inspectors found inadequacies in how mail was processed largely contributed to delivery delays.

During a period from May to September, inspectors found 41,548 packages had been improperly scanned at the station, rather than the delivery site. All but 181 of those were marked “delivered” before leaving the station, according to the audit.

Inspectors noted that people rely on scan data to track their packages, and that incorrect scanning can make it difficult for them to determine the status of their mail.

In the report, inspectors said scanning issues “occurred because district and local management did not adequately monitor and enforce package scanning and handling procedures.”

The station manager had only been there for two months and was unaware issues were occurring, the report added.

“What we’re seeing here locally is part of a larger story,” Rubio said. “But if there’s any silver lining in all this, it’s that outrage can and often does produce positive results.”

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