Local Postal Service concerns make their way to nation’s capital

Published 12:09 am Sunday, December 26, 2021

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Concerns from Rowan County residents about local Postal Service operations have made their way to the nation’s capital.

Since November, former Salisbury City Councilman Kenny Hardin has been working to initiate a federal audit of the East Spencer post office after fielding a range of complaints, including a lack of response from Rowan County Postmaster Rodrick Cole, frequent closures of the office without notice, the inability to purchase money orders, “guesstimated” rates for postage and lack of proper cleaning.

Earlier this month, Gold Hill residents in southeastern Rowan County also shared concerns with the Salisbury Post about making multiple trips to the local post office only to find it closed without notification and, in one instance, closed for a full week without an employee providing services.

Hardin has since been coordinating with Rep. Ted Budd’s office to address the concerns. Budd is a Republican who represents North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District, which covers Rowan County.

In an email to Hardin on Dec. 16, Sara Blackburn, a constituent services representative for Budd’s office in Advance, shared an emailed response from the U.S. Postal Service, which stated members of the USPS, who weren’t specified, have spoken with Cole and that “he is working through staffing issues.” Additionally, Cole claimed the “Gold Hill (office) has not gone without being open. The regular clerk is back there and is open every day.”

Hardin said Cole is “clearly misleading them and blatantly being dishonest in his response.”

“The longer these internal and external issues are allowed to remain under Mr. Cole’s obvious poor leadership, the integrity, trust and reputation of the Rowan County Postal Service will erode as well,” Hardin said.

The USPS provided the Salisbury Post with a similar response. Concerns expressed by local residents are the product of staffing challenges that the agency is “still working hard to address,” said Philip Bogenberger, a USPS strategic communications specialist for the North Carolina and Virginia districts.

Bogenberger said the East Spencer and Gold Hill post offices “have opened each day and access to P.O. boxes is available 24 hours,” but “those locations have had to close the retail counter early some days to consolidate retail staff at the Salisbury Main Post Office to keep it open.”

“I reject that patented, PR response that they gave,” Hardin said. “Address the issues. The people deserve better.”

Sharon Buey, a letter carrier in Rowan County, shared concerns about “continuous incidents that have generated anxiety, discomfort, inefficiency and a hostile work environment exclusively from a team member who should be exemplifying a leadership role.” Buey was referencing Cole.

“We should be able to trust executions and performance from authorities in management positions,” Buey said. “Authorities in roles as such should also act with integrity and accountability. Being noncompliant to these core values is not an option.”

Buey said a letter was submitted to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service on Sept. 18 about Cole’s role in fostering an unsafe and hostile work environment, but no response was ever received. The Postal Inspection Service protects the U.S. Postal Service and enforces public safety.

Blackburn told Hardin Budd’s office spoke Wednesday with a USPS customer relations specialist who assured Budd’s staff “she is checking on the staffing at the post offices.” The name of the customer relations specialist was not included in the email, but the specialist confirmed “the manager of post office operations responsible for Mr. Cole has been notified and an investigation will be conducted.”

Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican representing Rowan County in the N.C. House, said he’s received a couple calls related to Postal Service issues. But the U.S. Postal Service is under the purview of the federal government, and Warren said his staff has been referring concerned constituents to Budd.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.