Santa Barbara- S County

Mail issues add another layer of frustration for Montecito evacueees

Mail issues add another layer of frustration for Montecito evacueees

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Grief is quickly turning to frustration at a local post office.

Montecito evacuees are trying to gain some semblance of normalcy, even with their mail. And that is not happening easily. NewsChannel 3 stopped by the East Beach Post Office on Nopalitos St. where the wait has been hours long since the Montecito mudslide.

"Inefficiency to the hilt," said Kat Wetzel. 

"But you're staying?" NewsChannel 3 asked. 

"Maybe. Got some wine for us?" she laughed. 

Nope. Not even a chair.  

At 64 people and counting, the line Wednesday afternoon wasn't as bad as it's been. 

"A concession out there, porta potties, they need something. It's ridiculous," Wetzel said. "And they've had over a week to work on this." 

"There are no bathrooms, no water, there's no one coming out to give information," said another woman. "Not efficient."

That woman, along with another, waited for more than five hours for their mail. Both said that they were so angry they didn't want their faces shown. 

"They've done so many other wonderful things and organizing around but the post office feels like it's at the bottom of the list."

Montecito resident Winton Berci had been waiting four hours when our NewsChannel 3 crew caught up with him. 

"We've come up with a lot of interesting solutions," Berci said. "What are our mail sorters doing while not driving around? They could be put to better use."

Many customers in line said the biggest frustration, along with the hours-long wait for critical mail or paychecks, was not getting information or answers. 

Stacy Gensler, the postal manager on Nopalitos St., talked to customers and NewsChannel 3 about the challenges following the deadly mudslide and massive evacuations. 

"We're having to go through 15 to 20 trays of mail to find a single address," Gensler said. 

She explained that many of the postal employees who work in Santa Barbara County live in Ventura County and like tens of thousands of others, can't make it to work. 

So, a smaller crew is sorting through thousands of deliveries in the East Beach Post Office. By late Wednesday afternoon, Gensler explained that all of the mail would be taken to the distribution center in Goleta.

NewsChannel 3 talked to Meiko Patton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Post Office. She explained over the phone that the deliveries will be sorted in the Goleta center back into "walk sequence," making tomorrow's postal pick-up much more efficient and faster for customers.

"Please be patient, we're impacted as well," Gensler said. "We're doing our best to keep things organized and get you your mail." 

Gensler also explained that because of the mounting mail linked to the evacuations, employees are running out of room. Local officials are now working with their headquarters at FEMA to find additional sorting locations. 

"We went to the town hall meeting (Tuesday) and got more resources that we didn't know we could have," Gensler said. 

Gensler said postal employees will be shuttled up from Ventura County, starting Thursday morning. 

NewsChannel 3 has also learned that more than 700 mail customers who use the UPS Store at 1187 Coast Village Rd. can pick up their mail at the UPS Store at 27 W. Anapamu St. in downtown Santa Barbara. 

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