Although mail may come later in the day than usual for several more weeks, Lawrence postal workers have caught up with a five-day backlog of bulk mail, said Lawrence Postmaster Bill Reynolds.
"As of Sunday, we're caught up and current on bulk mail," said Reynolds. "We might be running a one-day delay, but essentially we're getting caught up."
Postal crews had been working extra shifts every Sunday since Feb. 9 to sort backlogged mail since recent changes in the delivery system slowed the process, Reynolds said.
He said today he didn't think an extra crew would have to work this Sunday.
At the delay's worst, delivery of some pieces of bulk and advertising mail was stalled five days, he said.
Recent changes to accommodate an upcoming shift to automated sorting equipment have resulted in later mail delivery for some Lawrence customers and in delayed delivery of bulk mail.
Mail routes were reorganized and, in many cases, made longer. Some carriers continue to start their day about 8 a.m. but deliver to more addresses and are supposed to spend six hours delivering mail as opposed to the previous four.
THE LONGER routes allowed other carriers to assist with sorting that will be done by automation when the switch is complete.
Bulk mail has been slowed by the change because mailers usually send their mail already sorted for specific routes, Reynolds said. But because of route changes, the current sorting doesn't correspond to the new routes.
Carriers and clerks now must take the extra time to break open bundles of presorted bulk mail and resort it. That sorting may be delayed if postal workers have a high volume of first-class mail, such as personal and business letters, which have a higher priority than bulk mail, Reynolds said.
He said the bulk and advertising mailers have until the end of June to update their route lists.
Sorters have caught up with the bulk mail as they've become more accustomed to sorting for the new routes.
"Essentially, they're learning a new job," Reynolds said. "You have to learn the 30,000 addresses in Lawrence and put them into a new set of groupings."
Sorting mistakes cost mail carriers more time and delay mail to other sites.
REYNOLDS SAID the expanded mail routes are taking longer than expected and will be reviewed by postal service officials for possible alterations.
"That's standard procedure after any reconfiguration of routes," he said.
In addition, a representative of the postal service and branch 104 of the National Association of Letter Carriers in Lawrence will look at ways to reduce the times of the routes, as a result of a grievance filed by the union.
Reynolds said it would be several weeks before evaluations of the routes would be complete and necessary adjustments could be made. He said he didn't know how many routes would have to be adjusted.
"Essentially, we want to get the mail delivered by 4 p.m.," Reynolds said. "Some carriers have been taking until 5:15 p.m. or later."