AMERICAN CANYON — City officials have been meeting with the U.S. Postal Service about getting a larger post office for American Canyon — a city of 20,000 people that lacks a full-service postal facility.
The current post office, established after the city incorporated and got its own ZIP code in the 1990s, is too small and does not offer an appropriate level of service for a city of American Canyon’s size, officials say.
But getting a new postal facility has been a challenge. The USPS has struggled with budget deficits in recent years, resulting in it moving away from building new branches.
Still, city leaders are gathering demographic data and other information to make their case for why American Canyon should have a more suitable postal operation for residents.
“Ours is laughable,” said Councilmember David Oro, who argued smaller communities in Napa County — such as Angwin with fewer than 4,000 residents — have better post offices.
Critics cite the limited staffing and business hours at American Canyon’s post office as two of its biggest drawbacks.
The front counter is usually manned by only one postal worker, resulting in long lines that extend outside the small building, located next to the local library off Crawford Way.
“When it was new, there used to be two” clerks, said the postal employee manning the tiny building on Tuesday. The clerk declined to be identified for this story.
She added that it was “ironic” that there used to be more people operating the small post office because back then “it wasn’t that busy.”
“Now that it is busy, there’s one” clerk, the employee said, who acknowledged that “most of the time there’s a line” of customers going out the door of the building.
Another complaint about the post office is its hours of operation.
The public counter doesn’t open until 10:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. It closes for lunch from 1:45 to 2:30 p.m., then reopens for only another hour and a half when it closes at 4 p.m. It is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The small building also has an “insufficient” number of Post Office boxes, said City Manager Dana Shigley.
“But I think the real issue has to do with community pride,” said Shigley. “The community has grown substantially in the last decade. As the community grew, so did the provision of many other public services typically available,” such having more recreation facilities, a larger library, new City hall, more parks, and a larger police force.
“Yet here we sit with a substantially undersized and understaffed post office unable to meet the community’s basic needs,” she added. “The services have not improved or increased as the community has grown like other public services have.”
Echoing Oro’s remark, Shigley noted that “so many other cities much smaller than us — Angwin, Yountville, St. Helena” — have full-service post offices with regular business hours. Meanwhile, “AmCan residents wonder why they have to ‘make do’ with the insufficient facility and services we have.”
“It’s frustrating,” said Shigley, expressing a common sentiment in American Canyon.
Last month, Shigley and Mayor Leon Garcia and Councilmember Kenneth Leary met with USPS officials.
Garcia came away from that meeting feeling more hopeful, saying it “was far more productive that previous meetings” with the Postal Service. Garcia and Shigley met with them last year as well.
He said the postal representative seemed “more eager” to address the city’s concerns with the post office.
Leary, on the other hand, said USPS couldn’t provide a clear answer for what American Canyon must do in order to expand its post office.
Shigley acknowledged the postal service’s standards for approving a new post office seemed “squishy.”
She said she came away with an understanding that the city needs to make a case on paper for why a bigger postal operation is necessary and appropriate, and submit it to the USPS.
“They said ‘build an argument,’” according to Shigley.
She said the city has faced a “Catch-22” dilemma at times trying to convince the USPS to approve a new post office. Postal officials have told her that their statistics don’t show a high use of the American Canyon facility, thus questioning the need for a new one.
“We said to them it’s because everyone gives up and goes elsewhere,” said Shigley, referring to residents travelling to Vallejo’s larger post office.
Sometimes residents have had no choice but to go to Vallejo to get their mail after their home mailbox is vandalized.
When a mailbox is tampered or damaged, the postal service holds a person’s mail at the Vallejo post office because the American Canyon facility is too small to store mail.
This particular problem plagued dozens of residents two years ago, when police received 89 reports of mailboxes being vandalized, according to Police Chief Tracey Stuart.
Reports of vandalized mailboxes have gone down since 2015. Forty-four were reported last year, and only 15 so far in 2017, said Stuart.
Shigley said postal officials informed her on July 7 that USPS had made six arrests in the last year, all of whom were “repeat customers” in the North Bay division.