Although an answer to the persistent question about the future location of the flooded-out Montpelier post office remains elusive, some news has emerged about postal services in the capital city. At the same time, phone numbers and online information posted by the United States Postal Service (USPS) remain incorrect or dysfunctional.
Until new information is available, it appears USPS customers wanting to mail packages will have to go to nearby post offices in Barre, East Montpelier, or Worcester. Another option is to create an online account through the USPS’s “Click and Ship” service, which offers free pick up of packages that are labeled and prepaid at your home or office.
Post office box holders can pick up their mail at the temporary mobile post office at 367 River Street (Route 302) — when staff members are available at the two white USPS trucks parked there.
Interim Post Office Communications Lacking
Public frustration about the closing of the post office in Montpelier, frequently expressed on Front Porch Forum, has centered on the lack of helpful information from postal officials. Phones are not being answered or callers are bumped to an already full mailbox with a busy signal. Calls to the USPS district office for consumer affairs in Portland, Maine (207-482-7196) have likewise been bumped to voicemail and never returned.
Nor has the USPS website been helpful. The published phone number for the Montpelier post office (802-229-1718) has a message that has continued to say the 87 State Street location is open. As of Oct. 30, the USPS web page was showing the National Life building address as a full-service location, when, according to post office staff members at the temporary mobile post office on Route 302, the National Life location continues to be used only as a mail sorting facility and is not providing customer services, nor is it accessible to the public.
That the National Life facility is only for the mail-sorting operation was confirmed by Boston-based Steve Doherty, a strategic communications specialist with the USPS.
“The folks at National Life have been kind enough to allow us to use their facility for mail sorting, but there are no retail or customer service operations available at that location,” he said in an email to The Bridge.
Federal Building Repair
One much-voiced concern has been about the structural condition of the federal building on State Street that housed the post office (up until it flooded along with the rest of central Vermont in July). Local citizens wondered, “Was the building going to be demolished?” A spokesperson for the federal General Services Administration (GSA), Paul Hughes, replying by email, wrote “At this time there has been no indication of any serious structural damage other than minor issues that are repairable. Primarily there are some soil washouts around the base of the foundation in certain spots and there are some drainage issues (primarily in some catch basins) that need attention. These repairs are not significant.”
City officials have had little communication with the GSA so far — other than exchanging press releases, according to both Hughes and city communications coordinator Evelyn Prim. Ben Doyle, the Montpelier resident who chairs the recently established Montpelier Commission on Recovery and Resilience, reports a meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 7 with the GSA, staff members from Vermont’s congressional offices, and city officials.
Asked about the current state of the federal building, Hughes wrote, “The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is currently taking all the necessary steps to remediate the Montpelier federal building from the floods that hit the area in July 2023. Our immediate objective is to prepare the building for winter.” He added that power has been restored “to the second and third floor, and the penthouse, and is partially restored to the first floor. Work on the heating systems and the hot water circulation pumps is progressing.”
But the return of tenants, which, in addition to the post office, included federal courts, the Internal Revenue Service, and offices of congressional staff, has yet to be established. Hughes reported that the GSA is working with each of the tenants “to find a temporary space that meets their mission needs . . . and to communicate these plans to the public.”
Doherty said that the search for an appropriate, temporary post office location is a priority. “While the current mobile post office is adequate as a short-term solution, we realize that, as the weather gets colder, a retail outlet with an indoor lobby is obviously preferable,” he said. “Our real estate folks have been working diligently to secure a suitable location for this operation but, to date, no lease has been signed. We will continue to explore all options on that front.”
The timeline for each of these steps remains in the planning process. Hughes noted, “The stabilization of the building will continue into late 2024. Further investigation is required to identify additional issues and determine the extent of necessary repairs. The building is currently closed to the public and employees and will remain so through the stabilization process.”
The Good News
After the shipping complications and staff shortages that compromised carrier route deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic, postal carrier Angus Montgomery said that staffing is now back to a level that has made delivery function much more smoothly — despite his father, Craig Montgomery, retiring and moving out of state. Angus is now covering the route in the Meadow neighborhood where his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were mail carriers.
Montpelier does have a newly appointed postmaster, Miguel Gonzales, although he has so far been inaccessible through either phone or email.