Playing Santa Claus is a good way to describe Juneau postal workers' job this week, Postmaster Kent Eriksen said.
The season is the reason this is the busiest week of the year for the U.S. Post Office, he said. And there's a reason why it's so busy so close to Christmas.
"People wait right up to the last minute," he said.
But he hopes people won't wait until the last minute to pick up packages that can pile up behind the counter, he added. It's important for people to pick up their parcels as soon as they can.
"We're not a warehouse," he said. "We're a pass-through facility." And these days people are working around the clock to take things in and send them out.
Downtown station opens
For the first time in two months, people can take care of postal business in the heart of Juneau.
Juneau Postmaster Kent Eriksen said a new downtown contract station has opened in the mall at Front Street and Shattuck Way. The station hasn't been publicized, giving the people working it a chance to ease into the job.
The station is being run on a six-month emergency contract, awarded to Juneau resident Christy Baseden, Eriksen said.
Postal officials in Colorado said in October that they hoped to open a new contract station downtown before Christmas after closing the previous station at 127 S. Franklin St.
Typically, carriers can complete 75 percent of their deliveries, Eriksen said. But at the busiest time of the year, the remaining 25 percent can add up.
Normally, Juneau will get 8,000 to 13,000 pounds of air-freighted mail daily. "Now it's 20,000, 25,000 or 28,000," he said.
That's just the mail coming in to be delivered, he said. Juneau postal workers have to move just as much out to be flown to other destinations. "We balance about the same amount every day coming in and going out."
Customers have made great use of the automated parcel acceptance center at the Mendenhall Valley Post Office, and that has worked to shorten the lines at the counter, he said. The automated center weighs mail and prints postage that customers buy with credit and debit cards.
"Saturday it did $2,800 in business," Eriksen said.
Eriksen praised Alaska Airlines for keeping the incoming air freight on an even flow. "No weather days this year," he added, noting that mail hasn't been held up because planes couldn't land.
"It will probably peak out Wednesday," Eriksen said. And he expects next week will be much slower.
Still, some people will wait until Friday to visit the post office, where the last minute will come at 4 p.m. "Our express mail will grow considerably toward Christmas," Eriksen said.