Those are just some of the issues with mail delivery and the post office in Douglas Park, residents say.
The neighborhood email listserv has been abuzz for months with reports of postal problems, and it’s not the first time the south Arlington community has experienced such issues.
Last year WJLA reported on mysterious mail problems in Douglas Park, including cases of mail that was inexplicably delivered several months too late, without so much as an explanation or apology.
On Wednesday night, four U.S. Postal Service officials addressed a meeting of the Douglas Park Civic Association to hear residents’ concerns. After some two years of off-and-on postal problems and two previous meetings with USPS officials, residents are frustrated to the point where they’re no longer reporting issues through official channels — only griping on the listserv.
“We’re just trying to desperately understand what we can do to get reliable mail service in this neighborhood,” said civic association president Adam Henderson. “The chatter I see on the listserv, quite honestly, a lot of people are so frustrated with the situation that they don’t want to call because they don’t think anything is going to be done.”
Postal officials apologized for the problems and promised action. They said the matter had made its way all the way to the top — to the U.S. Postmaster General.
“Douglas Park is definitely on the radar screen,” said Sharon Owens, Postal Service District Manager for Northern Virginia and the D.C. area. “Please let your community know that we are committed to improving it.”
A number of factors could be contributing to the erosion of mail reliability in the neighborhood.
Officials said the Postal Service is being hit by a wave of retirements — often leaving less experienced mail carriers who are still getting up to speed on their routes. Owens said USPS is trying out a pilot program to better train new mail carriers.
Another, more localized factor, has to do with topography. Douglas Park is hilly, with few businesses or large apartment buildings. That means that a mail carrier needs to walk for much of their route, which can be exhausting and makes the route less desirable. Because mail carriers with seniority are allowed to pick their routes, that has left a succession of less experienced mail carriers in Douglas Park, residents were told.
Walter Daniels, the local Postmaster, said he was surprised to hear of the problems, since the Postal Service had not been getting complaints about mail delivery in Douglas Park and thus assumed that the previous issues had been resolved.
“We’re in the business of customer service. I really am shocked,” he said. “It sounds like we’re having some mis-deliveries again. We will have to got back to the drawing board” in terms of employee training and “will start monitoring things more closely again.”
The officials also promised to improve customer service at the Arlington South post office, at 1210 S. Glebe Road, which has been the subject of a constant barrage of listserv and online complaints.
Old Post Office Property Vote Tonight — This evening the County Board is scheduled to vote on the property at 1720 S. Eads Street in Crystal City, which used to be a post office. The proposal before the board is to re-zone the property and build a nearly 211,000 square foot residential building. County staff members recommend the Board approves the measures.
Food Stamp Use Doubles in Arlington — The number of people receiving food stamps in Arlington doubled over the past decade. That’s lower than the number of people in Fairfax County (triple) and the city of Alexandria (quadruple). The spike isn’t just due to the recession, it’s because more people are now eligible for food assistance. With expanded eligibility it’s estimated that half of the food stamp recipients now live above the federal poverty level. [The Arlington Connection]
Items with Arlington Logo on Sale — If you’re looking for holiday gifts, now is a good time to give the gift of Arlington — at a discount. The official Arlington County Shop, which is located in the Plaza Branch Library (2100 Clarendon Blvd), is holding an end of the year sale. Items such as shirts, hats, pens, water bottles, golf balls and USB thumb drives all feature the Arlington logo and are marked down, some as much as 50%. [Arlington Public Library]
Your days of waiting in long lines to pick up and send packages at the post office could be over. Ballston Common Mall is one of the first commercial locations in the country to debut a new program from the United States Postal Service called gopost.
The service is designed to make sending and receiving packages easier, because they’re delivered just like regular mail. There’s no need to bring a slip to the post office and wait in line to receive the item. Postal carriers pick up and drop off items at the boxes just like a regular mail box. There’s no additional fee to use the service.
Users set up an account online and choose which location they’d like a package sent to. They’ll receive an email or text message that their package has arrived. At the gopost site, customers check in on a computer and receive their items from the designated post office box. If a signature is required, the customer simply signs the computer screen with a finger.
Users who want to send a package will print postage from their home computers, attach it to the package and drop the package off at a gopost site. The onsite computer informs the postal service that a package needs to be picked up.
USPS spokeswoman Laura Dvorak believes the program will be popular because it’s convenient.
“Why do you want to wait for your package, when your package can wait for you?” Dvorak said. “This way, you don’t waste your time.”
Several post offices throughout Northern Virginia, including the Arlington South Post Office (1210 S. Glebe Road), have installed gopost boxes. Ballston mall is the first non-post office site to feature the service. Dvorak says the location was chosen due to its proximity to many businesses and hotels in the area, as well as the mall being open to the public most hours of the day. It has 80 lockers of three different sizes.
“It’s a matter of convenience,” Dvorak said. “Customers would have access nearly around the clock.”
Customers will need to make one trip to a post office while setting up their registration. A USPS employee will validate the person’s identity and give more information about what items are allowed to be shipped. When the user logs in from a personal computer, the postal services knows who’s requesting shipping services.
“We know the account, we know who that person is,” Dvorak said. “It’s a very important security feature for gopost.”
The service kicked off at Ballston mall last week. It will be expanding throughout Northern Virginia this year. Future gopost locations include grocery stores, pharmacies, transportation hubs and other shopping centers.
Located at the corner of 18th Street and S. Eads Street, the $50 million high-rise apartment building will have more than 200 residences, and will be built under the new Crystal City Zoning District. The building’s closest neighbors will be several older high-rise apartment complexes and a pair of high-rise hotels.
“The livable luxury community will offer residents a boutique hotel experience with a wide variety of amenities,” Kettler said in a press release. “The lobby ‘great room’ will be the central gathering space bridging Crystal City’s bustling 18th Street with the building’s tranquil outdoor courtyard. The Wi-Fi enabled common areas will include a state-of-art fitness center, media lounge and conference room. The rooftop terrace will be a place to both relax and entertain, offering residents a pool with sun deck, kitchen with bar and BBQ grills, and an entertainment lounge centered around a fireplace.”
“Our plans for the redevelopment of the former post office will catalyze the transformation of Crystal City’s western gateway,” said Stephan Rodiger, Vice President of Multifamily for Kettler, in a statement. “We envision the new development providing an anchor to the revitalizing western gateway, bringing a younger urban professional demographic to an area that is poised to be a truly livable and dynamic neighborhood.”
Assuming its plans are ultimately approved by Arlington County, Kettler hopes to break ground on the new building by the end of 2013.
Pentagon City’s new post office opened on S. Fern Street today.
The post office, complete with woodgrain accents and plenty of light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, replaces an old, dingy post office at 1720 S. Eads Street. With today’s opening, the Eads Street post office is now closed to customers.
The new post office, at 1301 S. Fern Street, is located in the ground floor of the the Millennium at Metropolitan Park apartment building, across from Costco.