It was hot Monday afternoon when Munds Park resident Kami Ramsgate found herself spending her day off waiting in line in downtown Flagstaff.
Like the half dozen other people there, Ramsgate was waiting to receive her mail after the post office in Munds Park closed suddenly on June 30.
Ramsgate, who also owns the Munds Park Salon, said it was the second Monday in a row that she had used her only day off to make the 40-mile round-trip trek to Flagstaff just to pick up mail for herself and her business.
“This is what I get to do on my day off,” Ramsgate said as she stood in line. “I think we just need to get our post office up and running in Munds Park as soon as possible.”
But while for Ramsgate the closure of the office is inconvenient, for many of her neighbors the situation is much more dire.
Many older residents of the Munds Park area rely on the postal service to receive critical medicine, said Munds Park resident Allison Tiffany. Tiffany has been helping to organize the community in the wake of the post office's closure.
And the ability to receive mail locally has become even more important in the midst of the pandemic, Tiffany said.
“Everybody either gets what they need for their daily life from the post office or basically by driving 40 miles round trip to Flagstaff. But with COVID, everybody is trying to minimize their exposure by staying home, so we are using the mail service more than ever," she said.
Tiffany said many seniors and retirees went to the Munds Park post office on June 30 for that very reason, to pick up critical medicines, only to find the office shuttered.
A letter taped to the door of the office informed residents that they would have to travel to Flagstaff to receive mail. The letter did not say when the office would reopen but did call the closure temporary.
The closure left residents driving up to Flagstaff and waiting in lines to receive their mail for hours, all as the hot sun beat down on them, said resident Tom Hlusak.
"In fact, there was at least one resident who collapsed from heat exhaustion after hours of waiting in the sun,” Hlusak said. The Munds Park resident was reportedly taken to Flagstaff Medical Center as a result.
“She was three people in front of me, she passed out from heat stroke and we had to call an ambulance,” Hlusak said.
The circumstances around the office's closure are still somewhat unclear; unlike most post offices, the facility in Munds Park is not operated by the USPS. Instead, the building is owned privately and the work is contracted out.
Liz Jones held the contract to operate the post office and said the United States Postal Service in Flagstaff simply closed her office suddenly and ended the contract she had with them.
The exact reason is still unclear.
Tiffany said she can’t understand how the USPS could close the office without some plan to continue delivering mail to a rural community that is home to so many elderly residents.
But in the meantime, the community has come together to provide that service for those residents who are unable to make the journey to Flagstaff.
Organized through the Munds Park Community Church, volunteers have come together to pick up mail and packages from Flagstaff and deliver them to Munds Park residents.
So far, 27 volunteers have signed up to pick up mail for 147 residents, said Hlusak, who has helped coordinate the effort.
And limited service may resume at the Munds Park office soon, said Marty Ceccarelli, who owns the post office building there. Ceccarelli said he has been working with the USPS to set up temporary operations in the building until a new contractor can be found.
Still, that would likely only be delivery, Ceccarelli said. For products sold by the USPS such as stamps, residents would still have to travel up to Flagstaff.
Ceccarelli said he hopes that limited service can be started sometime this week. He expects a new contractor to be ready to take over by early August.
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