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Santa Rosa neighbors get their mail, and an apology

Mike Haas in front of his Santa Rosa home.

ALVIN JORNADA/ PD
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 10:52 p.m.

Santa Rosa's acting postmaster Wednesday paid a visit to the postal patrons who'd been told by her agency to move their mailboxes from their front doors to the curb, and whose delivery service was suspended when they failed to comply.

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Mike Haas in front of his Santa Rosa home.

ALVIN JORNADA/ PD

Julie LoDolce apologized to the residents, handed them their stored-up mail and promised that walk-up delivery will resume immediately.

LoDolce brought with her to the neighborhood off Hidden Valley Drive the Santa Rosa Post Office customer service supervisor, Gurpreet Kaur, who apparently acted without the postmaster's knowledge or permission when she sent out letters directing about 10 postal patrons to move their mailboxes to the street.

Kaur "sort of overstepped her authority, got a little overzealous," said USPS spokesman James Wigdel in San Francisco. "There were some procedures that were not followed precisely."

Wigdel said he could not comment on whether Kaur might face disciplinary action for improperly suspending patrons' mail delivery after notifying them that "safety issues" with their driveways required that they move their house-mounted mailboxes to where they can be reached by a carrier in a vehicle.

The apology by her boss, LoDolce, coupled with LoDolce's promise to immediately resume home delivery, appears to end an episode that proved perplexing and insulting to several neighbors on Winding Ridge Drive, Winding Ridge Court and Stonewood Drive.

The third week in January, each received from Kaur an identical "Dear Postal Customer" letter. It advised them that Kaur had recently become aware that an unsafe condition existed at their homes because "the letter carrier is required to drive up and turn around/back up in your personal driveway to service your mailbox."

The letter asked that residents relocate their mailboxes to the curb.

Lifelong neighborhood resident Mike Haas figured that for the letter to be sent to him was a simple mistake. He said his carriers have never once driven up his driveway, that they park at the curb and carry his mail the short distance across the driveway to the front door.

Haas said he phoned Kaur to inform her of the apparent error, and she insisted repeatedly that there is a safety issue at his house and he must install a mailbox at the curb.

Several of Haas' neighbors were equally perplexed because the mail carrier does drive up their driveways, but they said she makes an easy U-turn at the top and there has never been any evidence or mention of a safety concern.

Haas and some of his neighbors said that if the Post Office wants to convert them from walk-up delivery to drive-by, there are USPS procedures for instituting that change. They said it irked them that Kaur appeared to have manufactured a safety issue in order to bypass the procedures and simply force them to move their boxes.

Postal spokesman Wigdel said a few of the residents who received the letter from Kaur did install mailboxes at the curb by the deadline Kaur had imposed: March 16. Delivery service to those who did not comply was suspended on March 18.

A story in The Press Democrat on Tuesday was followed by a news report on CBS/Channel 5.

Also on Tuesday, a carload of USPS officials inspected the conditions in the neighborhood. Among them was a safety inspector and a USPS driving instructor.

Shortly after 2 p.m. on Wednesday, resident Haas reported, "The acting postmaster just stopped by my house, hand-delivered my mail and apologized for this whole mess."

He said he showed LoDolce the letters he'd received from Kaur, and it was evident to him that the postmaster had never before seen them.

Wigdel, the USPS spokesman in San Francisco, said a letter of that nature should have been signed by the postmaster, not by a customer service supervisor.

He said the post office's review of the situation in the neighborhood revealed that "there were three customers in particular who got the letter who shouldn't have."

At some point, Wigdel said, postal authorities will get back in touch with those residents who have long driveways and will work with them to find an agreeable mode of mail delivery.

But for the moment, he said, "The most important thing is that the customers now have their mail and delivery is being resumed.

"We apologize that there was a disruption in the mail flow," Wigdel said.

On Winding Ridge Court, Mike Haas concluded, "I think we got the whole problem resolved."

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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