Is your mailbox installed backwards?on May 16, 2012 @ 9:39 am (Updated: 8:33 am - 5/17/12 )
The police say the community was targeted because of the easy on-and-off access to I-5 and close proximity to Highways 516 and 167.
Dawn Banfield wanted to do something about it. "We just started looking for how you can stop it," Banfield said. "The vandal-proof mailboxes were the only option that we had."
Banfield went to the City of Kent to see if the neighborhood could get those large key-entry cluster boxes installed. The city agreed to match any money the neighborhood could raise in dollars and sweat to put the boxes in.
But as those boxes started being installed last year, curiosity put Barry Nelson in front of his computer. He wanted to check out the different sizes and specifications.
"I was seeing how big they are, how much they weigh, how many slots there are, and basically I noticed on their website postal regulations," he said.
And that's when he noticed the safety guidelines section which the U.S. Postal Service has for the installation of these Cluster Box Units or CBU's. "It spells it out very clearly in bold letters that these units had to be turned away from the street. The customer couldn't stand in the street accessing their mail."
All the boxes in the neighborhood were being put in with the slots facing the street which is the way most of them are installed everywhere in Washington, but it's also against the Postal Service's own regulations.
The CBU's are designed so mail carriers can drive up and deliver the mail without having to get out of their trucks. The older boxes have two sided access so customers don't have to stand in their street to get their mail, but the newer, more tamper-resistant boxes only open from one side.
Ernie Swanson with the USPS admitted "someone at some point assumed, I guess, that the proper way to do that was to put it facing the street for ease of access for our carriers as well as the customers."
Swanson said the Postal Service has been installing these boxes incorrectly for years.
"I have no idea how many we might be talking about," he said. "There undoubtedly are some out there, beside these ones in discussion, that were mounted contrary to our own regulations."
Swanson said no one had ever raised the safety concerns of having these boxes face the street until now.
So the national office has ordered the local USPS office to turn them around, at least in Kent, which Dawn Banfield said makes no sense. "Everybody else's mailboxes face the street for heaven's sake, and they have for years."
Banfield believes the switch will make it virtually impossible for people to get their mail. Turning some of the CBU's would make people walk on lawns or through bushes to get their mail, but Barry Nelson says all he's concerned about is safety. "The Post Office has now done the right thing, protected the public safety in the West Hill of Kent, and who knows maybe they'll start looking at all the other cities in the state of Washington and the nation to fix those."
If you're concerned about the safety of these boxes in your neighborhood, Ernie Swanson with USPS said it would look at them on a case-by-case basis.
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