Mount Airy postal workers constrained to complain: no space


Forget about rain, hail, sleet, snow and biting dogs.

For Mount Airy postal workers, the biggest obstacle to delivering the mail is their cramped post office at the Mount Airy Shopping Center.

The facility simply isn't big enough for 15 mail carriers to sort 30,000 pieces of mail a day.

The space problem became so bad that four carriers from the Mount Airy post office are temporarily working out of the New Market post office in Frederick County. Their mail is sorted at Mount Airy and taken to New Market for delivery.

"It's terrible," said mail carrier Cindy Baker.

"In the mornings we have to almost walk on top of things to get to our cases," the stations where carriers sort their mail.

To relieve the tight working conditions, the U.S. Postal Service has begun a search for land on which to locate a new headquarters for the Mount Airy post office.

Once the site is found, the Postal Service will exercise an assignable option to purchase the land, said Jack Stone Jr., a property manager with the U.S. Postal Service's Facilities Service Office in Columbia.

Then the Postal Service will draw up designs for the new office and consider applicants who want to buy the land at the option price and build on the site, said Mr. Stone.

Under the proposed arrangement, the Postal Service will enter into a long-term lease. The agreement will include a provision allowing the Postal Service the option to purchase the property at certain times, Mr. Stone said.

The Postal Service frequently uses this type of arrangement to acquire new sites because it doesn't have the money to purchase each post office, Mr. Stone said.

"We do not have that capital outlay to own every building," he said.

The Mount Airy post office has been in its present location since 1980. It serves the 21771 ZIP code, which includes routes in Carroll, Frederick, Howard and Montgomery counties.

Employees say the most frustrating aspect of the lack of space is constantly having to shift equipment and mail to make room for more of the same.

"There's no space to handle mail and equipment in the most time-saving ways," said Mount Airy Postmaster Elaine Hart. "We constantly have to move equipment to get people in or out."

Holding her hands about a foot apart, mail carrier Cindy Baker says, "If we're lucky, we've got a space like this to walk through and walk back to pull our morning mail."

Ms. Hart said the cramped quarters have made mail carriers' jobs more difficult, but mail delivery hasn't been affected.

She said Mr. Stone told her it will be at least a year before the new post office is completed.

Meanwhile, postal employees are doing their best under claustrophobic conditions.

"We're kind of to the desperate stage," said mail carrier Brenda Green. "It's a challenging job, to say the least."

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