Milford residents, businesses struggle with postal service delays

Fetterman Insurance & Financial Services owner Cory Fetterman uses the postal machine to stamp outgoing mail. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

MILFORD — This holiday season, Americans nationwide have been struggling with the United States Postal Service — a notoriously troubled government agency whose limited resources have been stretched extra thin by the demands of the pandemic.

In Milford, postal delays are common and have made daily life harder for various businesses and residents across town.

Susie Avalos, an administrative assistant with the Greater Milford Chamber of Commerce, said her organization based on Walnut Street downtown avoids sending out mail through Milford’s post office.

“We don’t send out mail from Milford,” she said.

Instead, Jo Schmeiser, the chamber’s executive director, drives the organization’s outgoing mail up to Frederica.

“She just thinks it takes longer” when things are sent from Milford, Ms. Avalos said.

When the chamber has on occasion sent mail out from the Milford post office, Ms. Avalos said there are often issues.

“I did send out a thank-you card one day from Milford because Jo wasn’t in the office and I didn’t have time to run to another location,” she said. “It was sent out in probably the second week of November and I got it back last week.”

Ms. Avalos said the chamber has also had trouble receiving its mail. Over the course of the holiday season, she said USPS shifted its routes and delivery times in Milford. This meant that the chamber’s normal carrier wasn’t always delivering the mail and that letters and packages would sometimes arrive after 8 p.m., when their building closes.

Ultimately, Ms. Avalos said this meant the chamber could receive their mail as infrequently as once a week over the course of the holiday season.

“We had a package that was a donation for the holiday auction. That was one of those things that they kept trying to deliver after 8 o’clock at night,” she said. “We literally got it delivered the day of the event.”

Now, she said their normal carrier is back on his normal route delivering at normal hours and the situation has improved to a degree. Last week, Ms. Avalos said the chamber received their mail twice.

Cory Fetterman, the second-generation owner of Fetterman Insurance on Rehoboth Boulevard, has also had trouble both sending and receiving his business mail.

“We do send out a lot of mail, but we receive a lot of mail, and that’s where our issue lies more,” he said.

On average, he said it’s taken about two weeks for his customers’ payments to arrive at his office, which has created some problems.

“Time is of the essence when you’re making insurance payments,” Mr. Fetterman said.

Because it takes checks so long to arrive, he said customers have received late notices and are dealing with lapses in their coverage. They call Mr. Fetterman’s office to complain. His advice to them is to either send physical checks several weeks ahead of time or opt for an electronic payment method.

Ray Daiutolo, a spokesman for USPS’ Philadelphia area operations, said the organization is aware of the problems some customers are having in Milford.

“It is my understanding there is road construction on Old Shawnee Road that is impacting the carrier’s ability to serve approximately 50 curbside boxes,” he said. “In the interim, the customers have been advised to retrieve their mail from the (post office).”

Additionally, Mr. Daiutolo said one Milford company, which he did not name, was having a unique issue with their mail.

“I understand the company receives (or) received some mail that had an incorrect address. That was causing some problems,” he said.

To remedy this, Mr. Daiutolo said “the district is adding a fix to the database that will ensure the mail is sorted to the correct address. We do not know the reason why some mail was improperly addressed.”

Not every business in town is having issues with USPS. Wes Cromer, an agent at Masten Realty, said there have been no problems at his office.

He said the business has relied heavily on USPS throughout the pandemic and they’ve come through.

“With settlements being mostly remote now, most of our settlement checks come in the mail, and everything’s been arriving as planned,” Mr. Cromer said.

“I’ve seen people complain” about postal delays, he said, but “we haven’t had any problems.”

It’s not just businesses that are reporting problems, though. Many homeowners across town have voiced complaints about postal delays.

“We’ve had them prior to COVID, the holidays,” said Nick Morole, who has lived in the Brookstone Trace subdivision of U.S. 113 for about two years.

“We’ll order a package and if it comes by UPS or FedEx, it’ll arrive right when it says it’s supposed to,” he said. “If it arrives by USPS, it’ll arrive a couple days late sometimes. Sometimes it’ll be one day late. Sometimes it’ll be three days late.”

But Mr. Morole said the issues are not specific to his part of town.

“I would assume that it’s not just localized to here,” he said. “In other neighborhoods we’ve lived in (around Milford)… people talked about those delays, too.”

Sheila Kelly, a native of London and new resident of the Milford Ponds subdivision south of town, said her community has been having similar issues.

“They’re always complaining about the Milford Post Office,” she said of her neighbors.

Ms. Kelly, the widow of a former Washington police officer, said she has been unable to receive her pension because she’s been waiting weeks for her new passport to come in the mail.

“I’m urgently waiting for my passport because my Maryland driver’s license expired, and as a result the (Department of Motor Vehicles) would not give me a Delaware license,” she said.

Without a valid photo ID, Ms. Kelly can’t access the pension, her main source of income.

Neither Ms. Kelly nor Mr. Morole were surprised that the post office was having issues.

“I kind of expected it, because funding to them gets cut all the time,” Mr. Morole said. “They’re building new neighborhoods, and obviously if they’re cutting funding, they’re not hiring more people to bring the mail, so it’s going to be delayed.”

Milford’s USPS branch is “like a little county post office,” Ms. Kelly said. “There’s a lot of people that have moved in and there are a lot more coming. Maybe there needs to be a larger post office with more staff.”