Temporary post office for Fort Myers Beach opens Monday; Sanibel's next month
Mail service is slowly returning to Estero and Sanibel islands.
After almost four months, residents of Fort Myers Beach and nearby areas can once again get their mail on-island starting Monday. The U.S. Postal Service announced earlier this week that a portable P.O. will open in the Carolina Avenue parking lot of the storm-damaged building. The office will serve customers in ZIP codes 33931 and 33932, which includes the town of Fort Myers Beach, San Carlos island and a bit of nearby mainland. Sanibel residents will get their mail service next month, said Mayor Holly Smith.
The temporary Fort Myers Beach facility will offer retail services, post office boxes, mail and package pickup Monday through Saturday, spokesman David Walton wrote in an email. "We appreciate the patience of our customers as we continue to recover from Hurricane Ian and restore service as quickly as possible."
Since the storm, many island residents who haven't forwarded their mail elsewhere have needed to trek to a facility in south Fort Myers near the Southwest Florida International Airport, which can become an almost two-hour commute, depending on traffic.
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Both islands' postal headquarters were ravaged by Ian and Sanibel's lost its fleet of vehicles, though Walton couldn't offer any damage estimates.
Sanibel residents, incensed to learn earlier this month that the USPS didn't plan to restore service to their island until at least July, mounted a campaign to speed things up.
"When they said late summer 2023, we all said, 'No. Absolutely unacceptable," said Smith. "And here we are."
They petitioned officials, enlisting the help of the region's lawmakers. Smith said Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and Congressman Byron Donalds were all "extremely responsive," and she's especially grateful to "one person who was a huge catalyst (but) unfortunately I can't name that person," she said.
Smith told The News-Press and has posted on social media that Richard Fermo, acting manager of south Florida's postal district promised to have mobile units on the island "within about 30 days, (which) shows what we can do. We had a bridge built in a matter of days," she said. "We've got a long road ahead, but the way we do it is together."
Throughout the process, Smith said she's brainstormed with Fort Myers Beach colleague Jim Atterholt, the town's vice mayor, learned from his experiences and applied them to Sanibel. Her request of the USPS: "Now let's try to get the red tape out of the way (because) you've gotten the units to Fort Myers Beach," Smith said. "You know what needs to be done, so let's get it done here as well."
If things lag, "We will continue to keep the heat on," she said.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Temporary post office for Fort Myers Beach opens Monday; Sanibel's next month