The United States Postal Office (USPS) considers transient individuals to be anyone living in a moveable structure. Therefore, according to USPS policy, residents in Petersburg living in motor homes or boats are considered transient, no matter how long they have lived in the Borough, even if the structure has not moved in a decade. In Petersburg, USPS offers one free P.O. Box per physical address or delivery point. For instance, if multiple generations of a family reside in one home, that home is only allowed one free registered P.O. Box. If one of the families would like to have a separate P.O. Box, that family would be required to pay for an additional fee.
A couple of years ago, Ed Bottani learned this the hard way, when he went to the USPS to check his P.O. Box, and it was locked. After going to the front counter, he was told he needed to pay in order to continue receiving mail because he was considered transient. Bottani says he was shocked, after all he had been receiving a free P.O. Box while living in the harbor for over 10 years, and he pointed out he has a pocket full of identification saying he is a Borough resident.
“Postal service is mandated to provide a free form of delivery service, but there are regulations that govern that,” Dawn Peppinger, USPS marketing manager of the Alaska district. “For a boat harbor, there’s one delivery point.”
“The postmaster said ‘you live on a boat, we don’t do boats,’” he says. “It ticked me off, but I gave her the $75.”
Bottani lives on disability and social security, and he says paying for a P.O. Box is unreasonable, in addition to the taxi fees he pays to check his mail. The taxi fees amount to $10 roundtrip from the harbor up the hill, a trip he usually makes twice a month. Bottani says he now pays $84 a year to have a P.O. Box.
“I’ve been here 10 years and that should establish something,” he says.
Bottani says this all started when the present postmaster took over duties in Petersburg.
Prior to that, residents living on boats were allowed to list the Harbor Master as their physical address. This allowed them to be considered a resident and be granted a free P.O. Box. However, that exception was not in accordance with USPS policy, and it allowed multiple individuals to claim a physical address or single delivery point.
Postmaster Teresa Lara, simply rectified the ongoing error and followed USPS policy by disallowing the exception to continue.
“The Harbor Master qualifies for a free P.O. Box,” Peppinger says. “The Harbor Master could allow boat owners to receive mail, but they would then be responsible for delivery and handling any forwarding of mail if someone moved.”
Harbor Master Glo Wollen says the responsibilities of the Harbor Master are vast enough already, and delivering mail is a convenience they simply cannot afford to offer people who live on their boats.
Postmaster Lara could not comment because USPS policy dictates all media related questions be directed to marketing management.