The line waiting for packages at Petersburg’s Post Office Friday, September 18, 2020 (Angela Denning/KFSK)

The U.S. Postal Service says customers will have two more hours a day to pick up packages at the Post Office in Petersburg starting today.

That facility has at times been down to just one or two workers this summer and just two hours a day at the counter for packages. Mail is delivered to post office boxes there with no home delivery in the community.

Postal service spokesman James Boxrud said Friday that hours at the counter will increase to 1-5 p.m. starting Monday, September 28.

“First we want to apologize that you know we haven’t been fully staffed and we continue to struggle with staffing up there,” Boxrud said. “We have made some inroads. The new person that we hired about a month ago is now fully trained and back in Petersburg as of this week.”

The shortened hours have translated to long lines at the counter, sometimes stretching from one end of the building to the other and out the door. Emergency officials have asked customers to move the line outside to lessen the number of people packed into that facility during a health pandemic. Residents reported wait times of a half hour to 45 minutes this summer. At other times the wait has been much shorter.

Boxrud said the hope is to get fully staffed by filling more vacant jobs.

“So we have three full time employees plus the post master,” Boxrud said. “Now one of those employees is a borrowed employee from Anchorage who’s going to go ahead and be up there for a month, for four weeks. That should go ahead help us keep that office open for that four hours a day. We have two other job positions that are in the process of being filled. And it does take a little bit of time. You know there’s a background check, a drug check, things along those lines. It’s not a quick hire for a federal job with the Postal Service.”

At the national level, NPR has reported on cost-cutting measures for the Post Office like cuts to overtime and office hours along with the political push back from a slow down in service.

Boxrud said cuts are not the reason for reduced hours in Petersburg.

“No I don’t think there’s any budget constraints,” he said. “I know I’ve spoken with district staff and there’s no limitations of overtime. We working our employees, especially the employees in Petersburg are probably working more hours than they want to work. But they are caught up with all the mail, keeping up with all the processing. So we don’t have any delayed, which is a real positive for us.”

Parcel volume remains high this year, similar to what’s normally seen around Christmas time.