Most of us don't think of stepping outside or walking down the street to check the mail as a luxury; but many people around Houston are waiting weeks and even months for mailboxes in their communities.
Local 2 consumer expert Amy Davis wanted to find out why. She has answers from the Postal Service and good news for dozens of residents.
"No notice... nothing!" said Katy homeowner, Sharon Suto.
Suto and her Westfield Estates neighbors say they got no warning before the United States Postal Service removed their mailboxes. For months, the unit that held mail for 13 houses had been loose. Then one day it toppled over. Instead of just securing the unit back on the bolts, the Postal Service hauled it away.
"Then I had neighbors calling me, 'wWhat do we do?'" Suto said to Davis. "And I said, 'I guess we have to go to the post office to get our mail and find out what's going on.'"
For almost two weeks, Suto and her neighbors drove to the post office on Park Row. After waiting in a long line each time, they got their mail. But they say they couldn't get any straight answers as to when they'd get their boxes back.
"Could be months, could be weeks," Suto said postal employees told her and her neighbors.
When Local 2 contacted the United States Postal Service, we discovered a larger problem. A postal service spokesman told us there are so many people moving to Houston and so many new homes going up that it is way behind getting new mailboxes installed. Any damaged or vandalized boxes are simply falling into that backlog.
Good news or the homeowners in Westfield Estates. Within 24 hours of our call to the Postal Service, homeowners on Landon Park Drive got their boxes back.
"Thank you so much," Suto told Davis.
USPS Spokesperson McKinney Boyd sent the following statement:
"First, and most important, the Postal Service apologizes to all of its customers for this inconvenience. Everything is being done at this time to restore mail delivery to Neighborhood Delivery Collection Box Units in these residential neighborhoods. Here are answers to your questions."
Boyd answered several questions consumers might have.
Q: What is the proper procedure/ protocol for requesting a mailbox? Is there a form online consumers can fill out? If not, who do they call?
A: For new neighborhood developments, the developers may request the installment of a Neighborhood Delivery Collection Box Unit (NDCBU), once the slabs for new homes are finished. There is not an online form to complete. We work closely with developers and provide them a process to use, which includes the mapping of new neighborhoods and addresses.
When a NDBCU box has been damaged or is in need of repair, the post office or postal station, which provides mail delivery to this NDBCU coordinates repair or replacement with the appropriate USPS maintenance department.
Q: How long does it take to put in a new box if the USPS picks one up for repair?
A: The current time frame to replace a NDCBU is ten days.
Q: Who's responsibility is it to install cluster mailboxes at new developments?
A: The USPS Growth Management Dept. receives new requests from neighborhood developers.
Q: How long does the USPS have to do that?
A: Currently, a 10-day timeframe applies for the installment of NDCBUs.
Within any new area that is designated to receive mail delivery, there has to be a population of 2,500 people or more than 750 possible deliveries to homes or businesses.
At least 10 percent of the building lots in an area to be served are improved with houses or business establishments. The streets must be paved or otherwise improved to permit the travel of Postal Service vehicles at times, without potential damage or delay.
Streets are named and house numbers are assigned by city authorities in accordance with the USPS address management policy.
Q: Why are so many homeowners waiting for cluster mailboxes right now?
A: The Postal Service must ensure that all mail delivered to NDCBUs is secure. This security is achieved with the use of a specific type of lock, which secures the entry point of the NDCBU for letter carriers. Due to rapid and unanticipated residential growth in the Houston District, we currently are awaiting expedited receipt of the specific lock type needed to ensure secure delivery for customers using NDCBUs as their personal mail boxes. As soon as these are received, USPS maintenance will install them.
"Every effort is being made to provide quality mail delivery to all of our customers. As recent as Jan. 8, of this year, one of our senior postal managers met with members of The Greater Houston Home Builders, and explained the postal process and timeline for mail delivery in new residential communities. We are committed to our customers, and very sincere about the quality of their mail service."