By Karen Sudu—–
SPANISH TOWN, St Catherine:
JUST AS its name was written in the history books when it became the first capital of Jamaica, Spanish Town boasts the first postoffice to be established not only in Jamaica, but in the British colonies. That was on October 31, 1671.
According to the Postal Corporation of Jamaica, during the reign of King Charles II, the governor of Jamaica was instructed to make arrangements for the establishment of a post office in Jamaica. This was because of complaints from early settlers concerning the slow delivery of mail.
More than 300 years later, the post office, located on Adelaide Street, has evolved into a mini-commercial hub, offering a number of services conveniently accessed by thousands of customers.
“A number of persons use the Paymaster service to do bill payments. We do payment for PATH (Programme for the Advancement Through Health and Education). We also pay pension, NIS (National Insurance Scheme) benefits, and the pensioners say they feel better collecting here than the banks, and we also sell phonecards,” Naomi Douglas, acting postmaster, said.
Moreover, the Express Mail Service (EMS) – designed to provide customers with expedited international mail service to countries such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the Caribbean – is one of the most sought-after services offered at the facility.
“The EMS is a three-day service and it’s very good. A lot of people use this service,” noted Douglas.
Similarly, the 24-hour zip mail, an intra-island service, is offered to people who want their mail delivered speedily.
“The weight determines the cost, but the minimum is $200. If you send a zip mail, for example, from right here to someone in Spanish Town, within the next five minutes to 10, we have a postman here to take it to them,” explained Douglas.
Phillip Daley, inspector in charge of postmen at the facility, said that with the advent of motorbikes, the postmen are now able to perform their duties more efficiently. But according to Daley, they are often faced with a number of challenges.
“If there is no letter box at the gate of the customers, then the postman has no access to deliver the mail. So if the postman takes back the mail, you find people come and quarrel, and say how long they are waiting on their mail, when, in fact, they have not made provisions for their mail to be delivered,” explained Daley.
Likewise, letters which have not been clearly addressed, including street names and gate numbers, often pose a challenge.
Daley also indicated that the numbering of gates is vital as it relates to people whose mail is delivered.
“The gate should be properly numbered. We have to be calculating. For example, say there is a gate with number seven and we are looking for number 15, and there is no number [at gate 15], we have to be calculating,” he stressed.
SIGNING FOR PARCELS
Of note, he said, customers are now required to sign for parcel notices, used to inform them of the arrival of a parcel at the facility.
“The notices are served by a postman and when they don’t sign them, they claim that they don’t get them. When the parcels are here for more than 21 days, a duty is charged, and they have to pay storage. That’s another thing that they curse us about, and say they didn’t get any notice, and we want to overcharge them,” he said.
On the other hand, Douglas explained, the Community Letter Box Service offered to residents of Angels Estate, which began more than four years ago, has been an overwhelming success.
“We have letter boxes placed in the area for them to collect their mail easily, and we don’t have enough boxes now to satisfy the demand. But there are commercial boxes placed in Angels, and people get their letter box keys, so they don’t have to come here. They can stay in Angels and get their mail right there,” the acting postmaster pointed out.
The Spanish Town Post Office is open Mondays to Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and has a staff complement of 37.