MARIETTA - Receiving mail in a box conveniently located near the front door of your house could soon become a thing of the past, according to a provision in the Issa-Ross Postal Reform Act.
Congress is considering the legislation, also known as U.S. House Resolution 2309, to help save the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service without using taxpayer funding to bail the agency out of its current fiscal crisis.
Part of the proposed bill would establish a "restructuring authority" with the power to take over USPS management and cut costs through policy changes that could include eliminating expensive door-to-door delivery in favor of curbside mailboxes or neighborhood "cluster boxes."
Marietta postal worker Jim Morgenstern drops mail in the box at a home in the 600 block of Eighth Street. (Photo by Sam Shawver)
That could present a problem for the nation's aging population, said Gwynn Stewart, communications director for the local Area Agency on Aging.
"It could be a mobility issue, especially during inclement weather, for seniors," she said. "The condition of sidewalks between the house and mailbox would also be a concern."
Stewart added many seniors look forward to their mailman's daily visit, and although it's not part of their job, the postal workers often provide a means of checking on the welfare of elderly people.
Debra Gibbs, who lives on Acme Street in Marietta, also sees problems with the curbside mail proposal.
"It would be a real concern for me," she said. "My grandchildren would have to go out to pick up the mail on Acme Street where there's a lot of traffic."
David Van Allen, USPS corporate communications officer in Cleveland, clarified the move from door-to-door delivery to curbside is not a postal service idea.
"This is not something we're proposing. It's just part of the current U.S. House resolution, but it's all an effort to keep the postal service viable into the future and meeting the needs of the public," he explained.
Van Allen said curbside boxes would quicken mail delivery.
"Door-to-door delivery is labor intensive, and there's not enough revenue coming in to pay for that delivery-that's Congress' thinking," Van Allen added. "And the postal service is currently losing an estimated $25 million a day. We don't receive tax money...our operations are supported through sales and services."
He said first class mail is still the primary source of revenue for the postal service, but first class mail is declining due to Internet usage.
"At the same time, the population we serve is increasing," Van Allen said. "There are 1.8 million new delivery points added to routes every year."
Fifth Street resident Joan Knowles said she would definitely miss the mailbox that's currently attached to a post on her front porch.
"It's the only way I have to send my outgoing mail," she said. "They took out the postal mailbox that stood on the corner of our street for 30 years. So I wouldn't like the idea of moving my mailbox to the curb at all."
Knowles said she would be willing to pay additional postage rather than lose the mailbox on her porch.
But Leo Daniels on Sacra Via Street said he wouldn't mind having to walk to the street to retrieve his mail.
"I'm all for anything that would save money and jobs at the post office," he said.
Daniels, 81, said he often walks a mile to the Marietta Post Office to send mail.
"What's the big deal to walk a few feet to get your mail?" he asked. "I hope people won't oppose this idea."
And Cisler Drive resident Heather Booth said she's always had to walk to a curbside box to get her mail, but she now uses the Internet and email.
"This is the age of technology, and many people just don't send letters anymore," she said. "I don't get much mail because I do a lot of my business online. I guess it's a generational difference."
Van Allen said the door-to-door delivery change is not included in similar legislation under consideration in the U.S. Senate and he noted there is currently no date set for the legislation in either house to be brought to the floor for a vote.
But any delivery changes that may result from Congressional action would be phased in gradually, with plenty of advance notice, he said.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said change is needed for the postal service, but it should be done with minimal impact to rural areas.
"While the USPS is in need of reform and a sustainable business model for the changing environment in which it operates, we also need to ensure that these reforms do not further hinder mail operations or create connectivity problems for rural areas, such as those in eastern and southeastern Ohio," Johnson said in an emailed statement Wednesday.
"Local post offices and the services they provide are a lifeline for many folks up and down the Ohio River," he added.
Johnson said ensuring the postal service continues to have the ability to serve both urban and rural communities is important.
"I have concerns about any possible cuts that would reduce the number of postal facilities and reduce delivery service to five days a week," he said. "I have closely followed this issue through the legislative process and will carefully review the final legislation when it's brought before the full House for a vote."