Mail delivery in Lawrence will be running behind schedule for the next two or three weeks because of significant changes in the delivery system, Lawrence Postmaster Bill Reynolds said today.
On Saturday, Lawrence postal workers began coping with the changes, which are designed to eventually make it easier for the post office to adapt to automation.
Some Lawrence residents got a taste of the changing service Saturday when they received less mail than usual and got it later than normal, Reynolds said.
"They weren't as fast on Saturday as they were on Friday," Reynolds said. "But, really, it went about as well as can be expected."
Under the changes, the postal service has reconfigured its routes. Carriers are still getting used to the new routes and the individual mailbox locations, Reynolds said.
Postal clerks and carriers who sort the mail for the routes have to relearn which addresses in the city are covered by which routes.
The changes slowed mail sorting and delivery Saturday, so many homes might have received just one or two pieces of mail instead of the three or four they should have, Reynolds said.
LOCAL POSTAL workers put in extra time sorting the mail Sunday, so it could be delivered today, he said.
Bill Lawrence, assistant postmaster, said that for the next week or so, some pieces of mail could be delayed for a day.
Mail customers should see their mail service return to normal by the middle of March, Reynolds said.
Under the changes, most carriers continue to start their day at about 8 a.m. but spend six hours delivering mail as opposed to four, as they had in the past, he said.
Carriers formerly served an average of 575 locations. They now serve about 800 locations.
Other carriers now must report to work at 4:15 a.m., Reynolds said. They spend most of their time doing the sorting that eventually will be done by automation when the switch is complete.
The new system has been criticized as inefficient by Sam Segraves, president of the local branch 104 of the National Association of Letter Carriers in Lawrence.
BECAUSE THE new routes require the carriers to deliver more mail, they must stay out later, Segraves said. When addresses cannot be read because of darkness, the letters are returned to the post office to be delivered the next day.
In addition, the restructuring requires some carriers to make up to 1,300 deliveries in a day in the Oread and East Lawrence neighborhoods, Segraves said. "The routes are just too long to get the mail out," he said.
Reynolds responded that the new system is designed to handle these considerations.
"If anything, these changes we are implementing, once we get delivery stabilized, should lessen or eliminate the chances of these situations occuring," Reynold said.
Because most carriers are spending less time sorting mail in the morning, they are beginning their deliveries earlier. Thus, they should finish their routes before nightfall, said Reynolds.
Regarding the heavy loads in the Oread and East Lawrence neighborhoods, Reynolds said that the longer routes were justified with the extra time carriers have to deliver the mail.
HE ALSO said that the Oread and East Lawrence neighborhoods have many apartment buildings with mail boxes in centralized locations, making delivery easier.
Reynolds said he recognized that the on-the-job transition is difficult for postal workers.
"Some of the carriers have been doing the same route for 10 to 15 years," he said. "And any change of this magnitude will have some bugs in it."
The U.S. Postal Service expects the Lawrence branch to be fully automated by 1995. The goal of the changes is to ease the transition to automation in a few years.
"Our customers expect us to try to keep our costs down," Reynolds said, explaining how automated mail sorting is more efficient than manual sorting.
Machines can sort about 600 pieces of mail a minute and are highly accurate, he said. A carrier or clerk can sort about 30 pieces a minute.
"We expect to lose about 40 of 150 positions when automation is complete," Reynolds said. He said he hoped most of the positions would be lost to attrition rather than layoffs.