CAMDEN — Not a lot of information has been made available on what construction work is being done at the Camden Post Office while it is closed to customers, but the project has contributed to concerns among employees and members of the community.

In a Sept. 9 letter to postal customers, Post Office Operations Manager Heather Adams said, “…After careful consideration, and only as a last resort, the ME-NH-VT District has decided to temporarily suspend retail operations for Camden …due to construction in the building.”

That closure went into effect as of the close of business Friday, Sept. 16.

What the construction project entails has not been clarified. U.S. Postal Service spokesman Stephen Doherty, who we were referred to when asking about issues at the post office, has not provided any specifics despite repeated requests for more information about the project itself.

“Our hope is that, by vacating the premises and allowing 24/7 access to the work crews, the renovations can be completed quicker and we can resume normal operations sooner,” he said in an email Sept. 15.

He also said, “No employees have been laid off.”

Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, has written to our local Congressional delegation raising concerns about the issues with the Camden Post Office and work conditions for the employees. She received an anonymous note from an employee from the Camden Post Office that shows the relationship between the construction project and the problems.

“I am one of the aforementioned ‘overworked postal employees’ and have been working 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, so there’s not much time left for anything else,” the note said. “We are not supposed to speak to the press, so please don’t use my name, but I did want to emphasize to you that time is of the essence in this situation, because I don’t know how long we can keep going like this, driving back and forth to Rockland two or three times a day while delivering a full day’s worth of mail and packages.”

The note goes on, “The construction began last spring and was supposed to take six weeks, however there was some issue which resulted in all but two of the workers leaving the job. This has brought the construction project to a slow crawl which has no end in sight. We need this project to be finished before Christmas, when the volume of packages will become an absolute nightmare. Today we had a very light day and still worked 11 hours. There is no way we can deal with the Christmas rush from Rockland. Certainly, there must be a way to get some help with construction in order to finish this job!”

Mark Seitz, President of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 92, the labor union representing our local workers, said, “It’s clearly been published and stated over the last few years that we are an extremely shorthanded workforce and I have carriers working 90 plus hour weeks and 15 hour days (which are well past our contractual limits) in almost every single office. This certainly is not limited to the Camden office. ”

“…The basis of the construction is to replace the antiquated elevators that were there,” he said. “This update is now on year two and I believe the carriers were moved due to their safety with all the construction debris and dust and such.”

Since the post office is part of the federal government, it does not have to apply for permits through Camden’s Code Office, according to local town office staff.

Despite this, the post office had previously filed plans with the town concerning elevator installation last year.

“The current phase of construction in the building is a safety concern for our employees and our customers. Once the phase of construction is complete normal retail operations will resume,” Adams wrote.

In the meantime, delivery to street addresses will continue and any items that cannot be delivered at the residence can be picked up at the Rockland Post Office during retail hours, starting Saturday, Sept. 17.

PO Box mail will also be available in Rockland.

The Rockland Post Office at 21 Limerock St. has lobby hours Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Retail window hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. to noon.

Camden residents have shown strong support for their local post office.

In February 1990, it was announced the town would not be able to retain its historic downtown post office. Townspeople formed a committee, signed a petition and brought their concerns all the way to First Lady Barbara Bush. The Select Board drafted a resolution in support of keeping it. As a result the plans were abandoned.

The current situation is causing concerns in the community and has prompted some to bring up the memory of that previous fight.

“…This construction project needs to be a priority,” Doudera said. “Our post office is infrastructure of the first degree and funds must be allocated so that it gets finished in the next two months. With all of the infrastructure money floating around, it is a cruel irony that we will be without a critical lynchpin of our community for an indefinite time.”