Ledger Inquirer: Habitat residents stuck with communal mailbox

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 20, 2013 

Back in 1999 and 2000, Habitat for Humanity built seven houses on the 1400 block of 23rd Street in East Highlands.

They were the first to be built in that area, but that's not the only thing that sets them apart from the other 264 Habitat houses in Columbus.

The other difference is that they don't get their mail delivered directly to their houses. It's delivered to a communal box, one like you would see in an apartment complex.

While the houses are on adjacent lots, they are not connected by anything but their pedigree. They are individually owned by the families who invested their sweat equity in their home and are paying off a 20-year mortgage, just like other homeowners.

So why are they being treated differently? That's a good question, says Habitat Executive Director Brinkley Pound, who has tried unsuccessfully to get some response, if not results, from the U.S. Postal Service.

She wrote a letter to Columbus Postmistress Barbara King last October but has heard nothing back from her.

Attempts to get her on the phone were also fruitless, so she wrote to me.

I called Pound at Habitat HQ here and she said nothing has yet been done about the problem.

"I have not heard one word," Pound said. "Everybody else on that street has boxes on their houses. It's a real issue for them. They have to go out in the rain to get their mail. I have not heard a word."

She said she'd be willing to put up the new mailboxes herself, but it's not something you can take into your own hands. The box is federal property, "and I don't want to be arrested."

I called the main post office on Milgen Road, but couldn't get an actual person on the phone. So I drove over and asked to see King. I was allowed back into the administrative area and was told that King was on extended leave.

Her administrative assistant said a man would be filling in at the top spot until King returns.

But he would not be available until Monday.

Sigh.

But I was also told that pretty much no one in the U.S. Postal Service is allowed to talk to the media except their media people. So I called and emailed a guy named Stephen Seewoester, the media rep for Georgia, who works in Dallas (Texas, not Georgia).

He responded within an hour with an explanation.

He said the local postal service has a policy to use what are called Cluster Box Units (CBUs, in the trade) in areas of new construction.

"Factors considered include customer convenience, the aesthetics of the area, and the economy of Postal operations," he wrote. "Because central delivery is the most cost effective means of mail delivery, the Postal Service prefers to use this method whenever appropriate."

I rode around Green Island Hills, just to check. As I'd suspected, apparently they aren't appropriate there.

Yeah, I'm shocked, too.

Update

Meanwhile, last week I was all set to call Rebecca Wiggins at the city Inspections and Codes department to drop a dime on the house that was the subject of last week's Inquirer.

But before I'd gotten around to that, I happened to drive by the house while on another assignment.

I'm guessing the house's owner must be a reader, because the overgrown shrubs were trimmed back, the high weeds were whacked, the doors were closed up and the moldy old couch on the porch was nowhere to be seen.

It still needs work, but it's not the eyesore it was.

To whoever did the cleanup, thanks.

To Rebecca, never mind.

Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at 706-571-8570 or mowen@ledger-enquirer.com. Or, in honor of this week's subject, drop me a note at 17 West 12th Street, Columbus, Ga., 31901. I'll check my CBU.

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