City Hall v. the U.S. Postal Service
November 22, 2013
"One of our favorite topics – gang boxes," Park City Mayor Dana Williams said when he introduced the topic at the City Council’s meeting on Thursday.
At that meeting, Mayor Williams and City Council members repeatedly expressed frustration with the U.S. Postal Service’s recent positions with respect to P.O. boxes and "gang boxes" in Old Town.
"The United States Postal Service (USPS) has identified the Rossi Hill area, which includes Lower Deer Valley Drive, and an area of Old Town bounded by Heber Avenue to the south, Park City Mountain Resort to the west, Poison Creek to the east and Empire Avenue/Deer Valley Drive to the north as a ‘deliverable area,’" according to the City Council staff report prepared by Planning Director Thomas Eddington and City Engineer Matthew Cassel.
Because the USPS has designated those neighborhoods as "deliverable areas," it has indicated it will cease offering free P.O. boxes to residents living there.
The catch is that the USPS is not saying it can or will deliver mail to individual residences or mail boxes in the subject areas. Rather, it has identified those areas as "deliverable" because it says it could install gang boxes in the areas and then deliver mail to those gang boxes.
Council members are firmly against installation of gang boxes in Old Town for a litany of reasons ranging from aesthetics to snow removal and safety issues.
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"Why can’t we just say ‘no’ to the Post Office and make them keep the P.O. boxes," Council member Cindy Matsumoto asked.
"Let’s Nancy Reagan them — just say ‘no,’" Mayor Williams agreed.
"I don’t think it’s the City’s role to pay for mailboxes that the [USPS] is arbitrarily and capriciously now charging residents for," Council member Liza Simpson said. "I just think that the [USPS] is messing with all of us. And I don’t think gang boxes are appropriate," she continued.
Matsumoto echoed Simpson’s concerns about appropriateness. "We’re special," she said of Park City, laughing, before clarifying, "We have a special terrain, a special historic district, weather conditions. We cannot have gang boxes."
City staffers said there is an argument that the area the USPS has identified for gang box mail delivery is arbitrary.
Council members suspect that the USPS has ulterior motives with the gang boxes issue.
"I think they’re trying to get rid of the Main Street post office," Matsumoto said.
"I do think they’re using this as a wedge," Simpson agreed.
There has been speculation in recent years, as the financially-strapped USPS has closed post office locations across the country, that it would aim to close its historic Main Street location in Park City.
Charlie Wintzer, who sits on the Planning Commission, suggested the City Council look into purchasing the Main Street post office property and then lease space back to the USPS.
Though Council members did not dismiss the idea, Matsumoto noted that the last time the city explored such an idea, the USPS "wanted an awful lot for it."
P.O. boxes in Park City cost around $80 per year. Council members emphasized that the issue is not necessarily about the cost. "It’s a fairness issue," Simpson said.
There was confusion expressed as to exactly how many residences could be affected and which residents (primary homeowners, secondary, homeowners, renters, renters in multi-unit buildings, etc.) are entitled or will be entitled to free P.O. boxes. At least count, the USPS had identified 57 primary homeowner residences in the areas it is targeting for gang boxes.
City staffers reported that the USPS has agreed to waive P.O. box fees for affected residents until 2015. After that, as things currently stand, if the City maintains its opposition to gang box installations in Old Town, it will have to decide whether it will cover the fees for residents that have traditionally been entitled to free P.O. boxes, partially subsidize the boxes, or leave affected residents to fend for themselves.