Poor mail service in Oak Park and surrounding communities in recent months has led elected officials to hold a public meeting next week to give fed-up residents an idea of what's going on.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-7th) said in an email to constituents that his office "has been receiving a higher than usual volume of complaints relative to mail delivery, especially during the last month or so."
The meeting is scheduled for 12:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 10 at the Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St. Davis invited village presidents, mayors and residents from the communities of Oak Park, Forest Park, River Forest, Broadview, Maywood, Westchester, Bellwood, Berkeley and Hillside.
"In an effort to make all of us aware of what the postal service is doing to try and meet the challenges they are experiencing, I have asked them to meet with all the elected officials in the area to discuss the issues," Davis said in an email.
Oak Park Village President Anan Abu-Taleb said in a telephone interview that his office also has received increased complaints about mail service for several weeks. Abu-Taleb said he reached out to Davis about the problem.
"Oak Park is not the only community having these issues," he said.
Larry Shapiro, Davis' suburban representative, said he's also received complaints from constituents in several communities about mail showing up days late with no explanation.
"Few of them have had consistent mail delivery," he said. "We're hearing that, for long periods of time, there is no mail. People have been going down to the post office but haven't been able to get redress. The post office has avoided them."
Shapiro said he's heard that the problem is related to the post office being short-staffed.
"We've heard there have been retirements and people off work for illness and disability," he said, noting that inclement weather this winter has exacerbated the problem.
Shapiro said the majority of the 20 or so emails and phone calls he's received from residents concern the south branch of the Oak Park Post Office, which covers River Forest and the southern half of Oak Park.
Marquetta Smith, a member of Davis' staff, said in a telephone interview that she did not begin hearing complaints until after the "big freeze" on Jan. 8, when the temperature dropped to as low as minus-17 degrees.
In early January, Oak Park Postmaster Theresa Thurmond said the subzero temperatures kept more than half of Oak Park mail carriers from making it to work. One worker who made it in that day suffered hypothermia and another had frostbite, she said.
The U.S. Postmaster General responded to one resident's complaint last month following the so-called polar vortex, writing in a letter: "Regrettably extreme weather conditions have presented themselves over the past week causing an adverse effect on our staff as well as our overall operations. ... Staff shortages have been experienced at many of our facilities."
Smith suggested that the decline in service also could be related to budget cuts to the post office at the federal level.
"The congressman will be having this meeting so mayors can understand what is taking place with the service," she said.