Street Beat Norton Mail

An entrance to the US Post Office on Taunton Street in Norton.

NORTON - Mail that arrives weeks after being mailed. Or doesn't arrive at all.

Certified mail that sometimes arrives too late for its time-sensitive deadline.

Residents have been upset about the problem and bewildered for some time.

"In my neighborhood, we experience all year days of no mail delivery, mail delivered to the wrong house," resident David Wrenn said. "In December it got really bad, and we got no mail for four days at one point."

"When I've contacted numerous times the postmaster in Taunton, or the regional office in Connecticut, they seem unaware of the issues each time, and indicate they will monitor my mail situation," Wrenn added.

Complaints have landed on a Facebook page postal officials say they are aware.

"It was basically people complaining about the abysmal post office service from the post office out of Taunton for Norton and the lack of answers," Wrenn said.

Town officials are also well aware of the problem.

"I have complaints about the postal service weekly," Town Manager Michael Yunits said.

There have been problems off and on with local postal delivery for several years, but it really got bad when more of the town's postal workload was switched to Taunton in August 2013, local officials and residents say.

U.S. mail trucks that used to be stationed in Norton are now all parked in Taunton, and mail carriers no longer process mail in Norton. That happens in Taunton, too.

"They all come out of Taunton," Yunits said. "That is also when complaints started coming in and it has gotten progressively worse."

But, apparently the problems stem from elsewhere as well.

In the mail room at Town Hall, Yunits recently came across a letter sent from Ashway village in Hopkinton, R.I., to a woman in Mystic, Conn.

"How does it end up here?" Yunits said. "The issue, I believe, is the Providence distribution facility."

While the Taunton facility is a hub office where carriers sort mail, the Providence facility is a main processing and distribution center.

Certified mail, which provides the sender with proof mail was received by a recipient, is about seven times the cost of regular postage, but the higher cost hasn't alleviated several problems.

The Norton Fire Department had sent a certified letter to a local business concerning an appeal, but it arrived after a deadline, Yunits said.

The conservation commission has sent out timely notices that weren't received in time.

"We have to say, sorry you missed it," Yunits said.

"It has an impact not only on everyone living in town but on communication that is important to us," Selectman Robert Salvo said. "It's another example of regionalization gone bad."

Salvo said he used to get his mail late mornings, but sometimes doesn't receive it until 5 or 6 at night.

"It's never the same mail carrier," he said.

He received a certified mailing that took almost a month to arrive - with four different postmarks - meaning it went through four processing centers.

"I get everyone else's mail all the time," selectmen Chairman Timothy Giblin said.

And, he said it's not just one letter at a time.

One resident had moved south, and the mail was supposed to be forwarded to the new address, Yunits said. However, there was a bag of mail, including some pharmaceuticals, at the old house.

"It's just crazy. It's incredible," Yunits lamented. "It's been going on too long."

Complaints are being forwarded to U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Brookline.

Kennedy's office said there are a lot of complaints, not just concerning the Taunton facility, but also the one in Raynham, and the congressman is getting in contact with the regional postal administrator.

"We are aware," postal spokeswoman Christine Dugas said of the problems in Norton.

She spoke to postal managers Thursday about the Norton situation.

"They keep saying as far as they know, they're current" with any backlog of mail, she said.

Postal officials investigated the mail situation in Norton and Taunton about two years ago after a slew of complaints of missed and mixed-up mail deliveries.

State Rep. Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, who represents Norton, said he learned of the situation when he was campaigning in town last summer. A top complaint was mail delivery.

"Some of them get medication through the mail," Howitt said. "Others complained of mail being wet or stuffed in, or that it just wasn't coming and not getting ads others were getting."

"Some people said it has gotten better. I still have received a number of complaints," Howitt said. "Within the last couple of months it has been brought to my attention it is a more townwide issue."

Howitt said he has reached out to several postal authorities to no avail.

"I have had virtually no luck finding out about the issue," he said. "I've reached out to the post office on numerous occasions and got no responses."

The town still has two post offices, one in Chartley off Old Colony Road (Route 123) and the main one off Taunton Avenue (Route 140) near Route 123 and Wheaton College in the center of town.

The postmaster at the main local office was attending classes in Providence and unavailable for comment this past week.

Dugas urges residents with postal problems to contact the Postal Service.

"If any customer has a problem, they need to bring it to our attention," Dugas said. They can call 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).

STEPHEN PETERSON can be reached at 508-236-0377 or at speterson@thesunchronicle.com.

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