Self service will help reduce the lines at new post office

By Lynn R. Parks

Kristi Mulford-King still had to stand in line to mail her packages. But that is something that, as people grow used to the new post office in Seaford, she expects to change. "I would expect things to move more quickly in about six months, once people get used to the concept of self-serve," said Mulford-King, Seaford, who was mailing several packages for her husband, James, who buys and sells merchandise on E-Bay. "In the old post office, if someone wanted a book of stamps, they had to just stand behind me. Here, they can just help themselves." "We will have to educate our customers," postmaster Rob Kern said. "But once we do, the lines will diminish." The new post office, which opened Monday, features stamp machines from which customers can purchase stamps 24 hours a day. It also has a scale on which customers can weigh packages; the scale not only reads the weight, but tells the customer how much shipment of the package costs. The customer can then buy the appropriate stamps and get the package on its way, all without talking to a postal employee. The post office also has two desks, one full service and the other just for purchase of stamps and other mailing supplies. Customers can make their selections from displays on the wall, then take them to the cashier for payment. "Just like in a store, you pick out what you want and take it to the cash register," Kern said. "That will also save time." The new building at the corner of alternate US 13 and Herring Run Road, replaces the High Street post office, built in 1936 when the Seaford postal system served "a few hundred families," Kern said. Today's system delivers mail to over 10,000 families. Construction started in spring 2000 and was originally scheduled to end in December. The new building, a standard Postal Service design, is 18,000 square feet in size, compared to 9,500 square feet for the old building. Much of that difference is in the work area - employees now have nearly 13,000 square feet in which to sort mail, as compared to 4,000 square feet in the old building.

"I can't believe we had all this equipment in that old building," Kern said, looking around the new, bright work area. "We were really cramped." The loading ramp is also much larger, and can accommodate full-size tractor-trailer trucks. The downtown facility could only accommodate 5-ton trucks. "Our transport will be more efficient if we can bring in a tractor-trailer truck," Kern said. The loading dock is under roof, something that proved to be important on the blustery, rainy opening day. It and the post office's back yard are fenced in the barbed-wire fencing. Security cameras monitor comings and goings. There are 250 more post office boxes than there were in the old facility, as well as 37 more parking spaces. "Here, we have 40 parking spaces," Kern said. "In town, we had three." There is also a lunch room, something the 35 employees did not have in the downtown post office. Kern said that the new location was not the Postal Service's first pick. "But sometimes things work out for the best," he added. "This is where the people are." Wal-Mart is nearby, as is the Seaford Village Shopping Center. A service road that leads to the post office will be expanded eventually to go to lots behind and beside the new facility. "Ours will be just one plot of many plots," Kern said. Kern added that despite a hectic weekend - employees started moving into the new building Saturday afternoon - he and the other employees are pleased with the new building. "This will be a benefit to the whole community," he said. "This is the best post office south of Wilmington."

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