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Officials react to complaints of postal delays

— Members of Maryland's congressional delegation, saying constituents have complained of lengthy mail delays, pressed the U.S. Postal Service on Friday to resume regular delivery — even as the agency reported it was not aware of any significant problems.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski wrote to Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe that her office has received complaints from residents in Pasadena, Windsor Mill and Perry Hall who say they have not received a delivery in more than a week and have faced extraordinarily long lines at post offices.

"This is a very serious issue," Mikulski wrote in her letter. "Constituents report that they are waiting for prescription medications which are a week overdue."

Hours later, other Maryland lawmakers, including Sen. Ben Cardin and Reps. Chris Van Hollen, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Delaney, as well as Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia as a delegate in Congress, signed a similar letter to Donahoe.

Congressional aides said the lawmakers have received many calls from constituents about delays, but the scope of the problem is not clear.

Yvette Singh, a Postal Service spokeswoman, said Friday that any issues related to last week's snowstorm had been resolved and that "99 percent" of mail has been delivered. She said some parts of the state are still experiencing icing, and she encouraged customers to clear paths for mail carriers.

The Postal Service said last week that some mail service in the Baltimore area would be suspended temporarily while lingering patches of snow and ice presented a hazard for carriers. On Wednesday, officials apologized for "any inconvenience" and said service had resumed in all areas.

Singh said the agency is looking into claims raised in Mikulski's letter that customers who arrived at their post offices were told that mail was not available because it had not been sorted.

Several officials with the American Postal Workers Union did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Congressional offices have received complaints from a broad swath of the state, spanning Towson north of Baltimore, Cumberland in Western Maryland, and Potomac in the D.C. suburbs.

In the letter signed by Cardin and the House members, the lawmakers said they were sensitive to efforts by the Postal Service to protect their workers during inclement weather, particularly after the death of Tyson Barnette, who was fatally shot last year while delivering mail after dark in Prince George's County.

But they described the length of the delays as "unacceptable."

"As you know, your customers depend on timely service to receive urgent mailings, including bills and prescriptions," the lawmakers wrote. "These service disruptions require explanation and, more importantly, an immediate resolution."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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