Post office becomes busy in between holidays

By Jeff Smith

Hill City post office employees took time off from their busy morning to take a photo on Jan. 2. From left to right, Andy Hallock, George King, Mark Hill and Jim Delo.

The post office is one of those areas in town that almost everybody uses and needs, especially during the holidays during the time when people send out their Christmas cards and send presents that they can’t give to others in person.

Wayne Pedersen, postmaster for the Hill City office, said that it starts to get pretty busy a couple of weeks in advance of Christmas.

During the period in between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day the United States Postal Service  expected to deliver more than 850 million packages and more than 15 billion pieces of mail. That’s  100  million more packages than last year.

During the week of Dec. 18-24 nearly three billion pieces of First Class Mail, including greeting cards, were expected to be processed and delivered. During this week there were  nearly 200 million packages per week that were delivered.

Pedersen has been the postmaster in Hill City for two and half a years and said that the increase in packages through online shopping means more job security.

The biggest challenge for the post office is to get everyone in throughout the day and get what they need mailed.

“We try to assist customers any way that we can,” Pedersen said.

They don’t open until 9 a.m. but a lot of the time they can hear people or they can ring the bell at the door.

USPS Spokesperson Darla Swanson said in a statement that USPS has planned for this holiday season all year long and have “flexed our network and expanded delivery hours to accommodate increased volume.”

Right now at the Hill City office there are two clerks, three carriers and a substitute carrier, in case somebody needs to take time off ,plus Pedersen.

Unlike other areas, the Hill City post office didn’t have a need for seasonal workers. Pedersen said there are some days of extra hours but not a whole lot. It’s still more than regular.

On Dec. 29 Pedersen said they were slowing down and it was pretty much back to regular volume.

He said he also received three bags from FedEx that day.

There is also always a fair amount of Amazon packages. The United Parcel Service usually has packages for the USPS to deliver the “last mile” everyday. For FedEx, is usually 2-3 times a week in Hill City.

The biggest challenge for the carriers is the weather. There were no major blizzards over the holiday season and no interstates closed so delivery times weren’t affected.

Pedersen doesn’t see too many issues with the cold and the snow. He said there is usually not too much of a change with the cold weather but the carriers use a little more precaution.

The carriers also have hand warmers and ice cleats. It becomes difficult when snow and ice become a barrier for them.

Mailboxes and pathways to mailboxes that are buried in snow and ice can slow down carriers. Carriers are actually told not to deliver to places that are too hazardous.