The waiting line at the Kenai Post Office was not very long Friday, but Kenai Peninsula postmasters are getting ready for the busy season they know is around the corner.
Vicki Shillam, Kenai postmaster, said the work load has tripled at her office recently, particularly in packages. The Kenai office delivers to approximately 6,600 customers.
She said the Kenai and Soldotna offices share a 45-foot van that brings mail to the peninsula during the rest of the year, but each office needs a separate van the day after Thanksgiving due to the increase in mail.
Shillam said her office receives approximately six van loads more than normal a week during the holidays, and starting this week, an extra van load will come each Sunday.
"They (the vans) are completely full," she said.
The office has not hired any addition employees for the season, but the staff of 21 is getting the overtime they miss the rest of the year, she said.
Their overtime comes from handling the extra volume of 500 parcels a week for street and post office box deliveries. That total, she said, will escalate to an extra 900 parcels at the peak of the season, which will begin Dec. 20.
Shillam said she expects a mad house from Dec. 20 on.
She said what will help the hustle and bustle is the five new Ford long -life vehicles that will make their driving debut on Kenai roads today. The load the new vehicles can carry is double the capacity of the older vehicles.
Other post offices are feeling the holiday rush, but they see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Robert Welch, Ninilchik postmaster, said he has noticed an increase but said his office, which serves 760 customers, can prevail.
"I think we will be able to handle it," he said.
He also said his office has not added new staff so far.
Welch said his office is mostly seeing Christmas cards and parcels, and people are seemingly coming in and mailing out early.
"The main thing is the earlier they mail, the earlier their mail will arrive," Welch said.
While the folks in Ninilchik can handle their load, the shelves at the Homer Post Office tell another story.
"We literally run out of room," said Homer Postmaster Mike Moore.
He urges customers to pick up packages as soon as possible so shelf space, which holds packages waiting to be picked up, can be used.
He said an average person sends and receives six packages during the holiday season, and that does not include packages from mail orders.
"Unfortunately people usually wait until next week," he said Friday. "The smart ones are in here now."
The Homer post office serves 3,000 post office box customers and another 400 customers on a carrier route.
Moore said he hired one temporary employee to add to his 20 regular workers.
While the rush is not abnormal for the post offices, Shillam said residents should still mail early. The guaranteed date for ensured Christmas arrival for parcels is Dec. 18.
Shillam also warns customers that the price of stamps will increase to 34 cents Jan. 2. and one cent stamps are available at post offices.
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