The Norman Transcript

February 23, 2013

Post office letter met with complaints

By Mick Hinton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Some southwest Norman residents are mighty upset with their postal service after receiving a letter this week informing them that there was going to be mandatory curbside delivery, as of March 15.

If customers do not abide, the letter states, “we will have to start holding all the mail at the office.”

But whoa!

Norman postmaster Jeffrey Vaughan said Friday the letter he sent was a huge mistake, and it was actually sent out from the Sooner post office west of Interstate 35.  Vaughan said he did not have a chance to review the letter, but he takes full responsibility for its content.

“If customers need to keep the mail box right outside their front door _ great,” Vaughan said.  “And I will personally make sure they continue getting their mail.”

The letter also urged residents to “please call” the post office, if they had any questions about the change.

But no phone number was listed in the letter.

Vaughan said it was a mistake that the letter did not have a phone number in it.  He said that anyone with concerns could contact the post office at 321-4246. also said that he will send another letter to residents in the next few weeks to clarify what is happening.

Resident Earl Whitman said that all of a sudden  the letter popped up in his mail box, with no further explanation.

The postmaster asserted that “a carrier has the right to make the decision” as to whether a customer should continue receiving mail next to the house.

Those receiving the latest round of letters are residents in the area of Walnut and Pickard streets, north of Imhoff Road.

Vaughan said this is an area where there is both curbside and front door deliveries, and it would be helpful to the post office if everyone had curbside.

The letter instructs customers to erect a mailbox on a post  at a height of 40 to 46 inches.

Whitman said the very next day after the letter arrived, he received a flyer from a construction company offering to install a curbside mailbox at a cost of $80, including labor and material. 

The post master said he had no idea who the contractor was, but Vaughan indicated he was going to contact that business and ask them where they got this information.

Neighbor David Smeal said he called Congressman Tom Cole’s office  about the matter.  Lisa Head with the representative’s office pointed out that the post office is under federal jurisdiction, Smeal said.

In an e-mail to the postmaster, Head noted that Smeal lives near the (Barry) Switzers in an older neighborhood that does not have curbside delivery.

Smeal said he received a call Friday afternoon from postmaster Vaughan. 

“I told him that he should send another letter” as soon as possible, and before  residents install a curbside mailbox.

The postmaster conceded that this change could save the post office some money at a time when there is talk about cutting back on Saturday mail service.

But the overriding reason he said was “We are just trying to take the burden off of our carriers.”

He said a carrier walks from 10-15 miles a day.  Maybe a carrier could do that for 35 years, but these carriers are getting older.

“I would like to be able to help them,” Vaughan said.

Asked if the post office requires that a customer be apprised personally of such a proposed change, Vaughan said he would make it his personal responsibility to see that this happens.

Altogether, about 600 Norman households have already been contacted about the change.    The first neighborhood targeted was an area in east Norman, stretching from Porter to 12th Avenue Northeast, between Alameda and Robinson streets.

Vaughan said that those in the older neighborhood were cooperative.  He  said that in a few cases, the post office itself paid for a curbside mailbox for a customer who could not afford the cost.

About 70 percent of Norman homes have curbside postal service including newer homes.

Vaughan said he worked to implement curbside service for the town of El Reno.

“We did probably 60 percent of the residents” with curbside service.

It really helped the postal carriers, he said. It might not cut down on their delivery time, but it could provide carriers a longer time that they are able to work.

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