By PETE WALTON
After a three-year wait, post offices in Bradley Beach and Avon are once again delivering mail to local residents.
“Starting this week, U.S. mail will once again be delivered out of the Avon-by-the-Sea and Bradley Beach post offices, restoring the original delivery process,” U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said in a statement released by his office.
In a cost-cutting effort, the U.S. Postal Service began using carriers from the Belmar post office to deliver mail to Avon and Bradley Beach beginning in 2016.
The local post offices were used solely as retail and mail pick-up locations for the past several years.
Complaints began to accumulate soon after the change, and local officials reached out to Smith for help.
The good news was delivered to Bradley Beach residents at this week’s Borough Council meeting when Councilman Randy Bonnell read a letter from Smith addressed to Mayor Gary Engelstad.
“After three years of hard work, dedication and sheer will power on your part, it is my utmost pleasure to inform you that local mail delivery service will be reinstated at the Avon and Bradley Beach post offices effective January 22, 2019,” Smith said in his letter. “The USPS has assured me that all appropriate staff have been hired, trained, and are fit to serve your mail delivery routes resulting in greater consistency of carriers and mail delivery.”
Resident Thomas J. Coan, who also received a letter from the congressman, said that his new postal carrier introduced himself earlier in the day when he delivered mail to Coan’s Third Avenue home.
Smith thanked the postal service “for identifying solutions for those who suffered extensive delays and other delivery mishaps after the USPS consolidated operations in the area.”
“Residents have endured years of delivery delays or mistakes,” Smith said. “After I hosted multiple meetings with key postal officials and local residents, the USPS was, thankfully, persuaded. I am optimistic that the decision to reopen delivery operations at the local facilities will ensure better consistency, efficiency and reliability once and for all.”
The congressman began hearing reports of late mail delivery, mail delivered to the wrong address, or not at all soon after deliveries out of the Belmar post office began. Smith met with postal officials in 2016 when a postmaster change was announced.
A second meeting early last year led to what the congressman called “a turning-point meeting” in May 2018 at the Avon Municipal Marina. At that session, Smith and local residents pushed for stronger action on the part of the postal service as the agency’s minor changes to date had made only “short-term progress with an eventual relapse into widespread delivery problems,” in the congressman’s words.
At the May meeting, the postal service agreed to conduct an in-depth survey of mail operations out of Belmar and affecting the other two towns. Smith said the results of the research and survey were “undeniable.”
The decision to restore delivery operations in Bradley Beach and Avon was announced last August.
“Relocating the management of the local delivery back into the hometown post offices will mean that there will be greater consistency of letter carriers, more dependable delivery times, as well as reliable package delivery to homes and businesses in Bradley Beach and Avon,” Smith said at the time.
The original plan was to restart local delivery in November but the date was pushed back when the postal service said it needed more time to hire and train at least five new employees.
In October, Smith met once again with postal officials to secure the revised implementation date of Jan. 22.
“Many thanks to the local residents who attended the meetings I hosted and worked together to win the return of full mail delivery services,” the congressman said. “I appreciate that key postal officials ultimately intervened to fix the problem, and I will continue to monitor their progress to ensure their customers -ó my constituents — get the timely, reliable mail services they deserve.”
In other developments at this week’s council meeting, Engelstad introduced Dearl G. Nelson, who replaced Bryant Curry as the borough’s code enforcement officer. Nelson has worked for the Lakewood code enforcement office for 28 years.
The mayor announced a special public workshop on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2, to discuss strategic planning for the borough. Paula Gavin, chief service officer at NYC Service, volunteered to assist the borough in the planning process. Gavin has been compiling data and research material since moving to Bradley Beach.
NYC Service is described as “a catalyst, convener and capacity builder for volunteerism and national service, working with nonprofits, businesses and agencies.”
Before joining the city agency, Gavin served as executive director of the New York City Fund for Public Advocacy, president of National Urban Fellows, and president of the NYC Center for Charter School Excellence.
For 14 years, from 1990 to 2004, Gavin was president of the YMCA of Greater New York.
Engelstad expects the public meeting on Feb. 2 to run from noon to 3 p.m. — plenty of time for those who are interested to be home or elsewhere in time for the early evening Super Bowl kickoff.