SWANS ISLAND — The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has relented and will now allow mail to be carried in vehicles along with other cargo for delivery to Swans Island and Frenchboro.
That means Louis “L.J.” Hopkins, who had the outer-island mail delivery contract for 27 years until March 31 of this year, will be able to bid on a new mail contract. He is expected to be the only bidder.
The USPS would not renew his contract last spring because he carried groceries, packages, household supplies and other items in his van, along with the mail, onto the Maine State Ferry in Bass Harbor.
On Swans Island, the mail was transferred to a private boat for delivery to Frenchboro, while Hopkins delivered the other items to homes and businesses on Swans Island.
The USPS said that arrangement was unacceptable because it jeopardized the security of the mail.
Hopkins said he couldn’t afford to deliver the mail if he wasn’t allowed to carry anything else, so he didn’t sign a contract renewal.
The USPS awarded a six-month contract to someone else for mail delivery to Swans Island. That contract does not include Frenchboro. So, mail has been taken to Frenchboro by the Maine State Ferry, which goes to that island only on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Residents of Frenchboro and Swans Island contacted members of Maine’s congressional delegation to protest the USPS’s stance. Then Keith Harriton, an attorney in Armonk, N.Y., who has a summer home on Swans Island, got involved. He said in an email to Hopkins’ supporters that he became convinced that Hopkins and Brian Krafjack, who had been taking the mail from Swans Island to Frenchboro, were being “bullied” by the USPS.
“I told Brian I didn’t like bullies, especially governmental ones, and offered a lawyer’s look,” Harriton said.
After the USPS refused to relax its policy for the outer islands, Harriton said, Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Rep. Bruce Poliquin agreed to sign “a compelling letter … requesting the Postal Service to allow a combined mail and freight delivery service to both Swans and Frenchboro.”
Harriton said he also teamed up with the “juggernaut” law firm, Venable LLP, to try to stop the USPS, which he called a “runaway train,” from soliciting bids for a four-year mail delivery contract that would prohibit other cargo from being carried in the same vehicle.
He and a Venable attorney met with USPS officials Sept. 8 to press their case.
“By the close of the morning session, we had convinced the Postal Service … to amend the [mail contract] solicitations to allow non-postal cargo to be transported concurrently with mail, both in vehicles and the boat serving Frenchboro,” Harriton said. “The Postal Service stated it would like the mail to be in a separate, secure container. Further, it was represented that (Hopkins’) van would be acceptable.”
Tomorrow, Sept. 16, is the deadline for submitting bids for the mail delivery contract, which is to go into effect Oct. 1.