Editorial - Local Post Office makes a (not so) special delivery?

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    Any local/area stores that sell curbside mailbox kits might want to load up their inventory because a bunch of Crookston residents are going to be in the market for one.

    Along with the regular mail, our U.S. Post Office in Crookston last Thursday had carriers deliver to any house that does not have a sidewalk in front a letter announcing that those properties have to purchase and install a mailbox at their curbside. (At least that’s the assumption. Others who fit this criteria report receiving letters several weeks ago, with varying deadlines, and some others who meet the criteria say they have yet to receive a letter.)

    This is Crookston, home to a quirky, puzzling and even bizarre maze of sidewalks/no sidewalks/sidewalks/no sidewalks in many of its neighborhoods. Where you can be taking a stroll on a sidewalk with your spouse and dog or pushing your baby in a stroller and...the sidewalk just stops. It might start up again a few houses further down the street or on the next block or around the corner...or it might not.

    So a lot of Crookston property owners are impacted by this policy change at our local post office.

    It’s a courteous letter. Sent by Postmaster Kevin Porter and Emily Ogorek, supervisor of customer service in Crookston, it’s heavy on understanding and empathy. It even tells the recipients places they can purchase their pole-mounted mailbox kit and provides instruction on where and how to position it. (The Times emailed Ogorek seeking more information on the scope of the situation in Crookston, but had not heard back from her as of this writing.)

    But the letter is also matter-of-fact. This policy change is real, it’s happening, and property owners who don’t have their new curbside mailbox up by May 15 will have to go to the post office to get their mail because the carrier will no longer walk it up to a house with a mailbox outside the door.

    It’s all about carrier safety, the letter stresses. Carriers walking on streets where there are no sidewalks, especially during the winter, are in harm’s way. With this new policy, postal carriers won’t even have to leave their delivery vehicles to deliver the mail on streets with no sidewalks.

    It’s hard to take issue with the increasing safety/reducing risk angle. When you’re out and about in various Crookston neighborhoods and have to walk on the street because there isn’t a sidewalk in sight, do you feel 100% safe? How about 75%? Pedestrians shouldn’t have to share the road with vehicles, especially when so many motorists race around town like speed demons.

    The Times posted the letter on social media Saturday and asked local residents for their thoughts. They had plenty of questions, concerns and complaints. Among them:

    • Is this really all about carrier safety? Or is it more about speeding up mail delivery routes – because they’ll be done more via vehicle and not on foot – so fewer carriers can cover more ground? In other words, cutting jobs?

    • How will the elderly and disabled who might be less mobile than others get their mail way down by their curb?

    • What about snow? What about a lot of snow? What happens when plows come by and leave huge drifts that cover up or even damage curbside mailboxes?

    • At least during the summer, it appears many mail carriers rarely walk on the street; they walk through people’s front yards.

    • What happens in areas of town where on-street parking is common and someone parks a car in front of a curbside mailbox?

    • What about security? What’s to stop people from stealing important mail from a mailbox located so far from the front door?

    • If people have to dig a hole to install their new curbside mailbox, where in the letter is the reminder to call “811” before you dig to make sure you don’t hit any underground utility infrastructure?

    Yes, there are a lot of questions, concerns and complaints. And, to be true, some understanding, too. Some people are OK with this new policy, if carrier safety really is the driving factor behind the change.

    But this is a pretty big deal, big enough to warrant more consistent, comprehensive communication delivered further in advance.

– Mike Christopherson