Christmas crunch
Post office enters busy holiday season

COVINGTON - The deadlines to send off holiday packages, cards and letters are near.

The U.S. Postal Service recommends mailing cards and letters by Dec. 20, which is also the deadline for Priority Mail. Parcel post packages should be mailed by Dec. 15, while express mail can wait until Dec. 22.

Deadlines aside, with the volume increase already taking place, Covington Post Master Carlton Bell suggested foregoing parcel post and mailing packages either priority or express mail.

"We have flat-rate boxes that are available to anyone. They don't cost anything," he said.

Bell said he expects the volume increase to continue through this week and then taper off, though, "We'll have some procrastinators," the week before Christmas, he said.

The Covington post office typically sends two trucks out daily - one at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. - but a third that leaves at 1:15 p.m. has now been added, Bell said.

"We're trying to advance as much into the system as early as possible," he said.

Bell said the post office is staffed to handle the high volume of customers and employees are working hard to make sure service is swift.

"I see longer lines over at Kroger and Wal-Mart than I do in my own lobby," Bell said, but he added that, "This is our peak period of time, so patience is welcomed."

There are steps postal customers can take to shorten the wait, he said.

"To speed up the transaction, have the package already prepared when you get to the counter line. If you have the package well-secured and properly prepared, it speeds the process," he said.

Packages containing perishable items should be mailed via express mail, he said.

For more holiday mailing guidelines, including deadlines for military and overseas packages, visit www.usps.com.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.