Post Office promises mailbox rules won’t stop delivery on South Whidbey

Laura Aries, a mail carrier in Langley, shows how high her seat is compared to a low mailbox along her route.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Laura Aries, a mail carrier in Langley, shows how high her seat is compared to a low mailbox along her route.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Despite claims to the contrary, mail will not be suspended on South Whidbey at homes with low mailboxes, according to United States Postal Service officials.

Brian Wade, officer in charge at the Langley Post Office, said mail was not in danger of being held after notices went out to at least 300 residences in Langley and Freeland that their mailboxes were too low and needed to be higher.

“We’ve been doing it this long, so we’ll keep on trucking,” Wade said.

The notices were issued after he was informed that South Whidbey would receive five iconic United States Postal Service long life vehicles, the result of USPS consolidating routes.

Wade said he doesn’t know when the new trucks will arrive, but he did confirm they are higher off the ground than the cars mail carriers use now. As a result, many mailboxes are too low for the drivers to quickly load and grab the mail. Standard mailboxes should be between 41 inches and 45 inches from the bottom of the box to the ground.

“They’re built for mail delivery where a standard car isn’t,” Wade said of the new mail trucks.

One carrier empathized with residents who built their mailboxes into covered structures, but noted that many mail carriers develop back pain after decades of stooping to open and close a mailbox.

“Most carriers by the end of their careers burn through their rotator cuffs and have back issues,” said Laura Aries, a carrier in Langley. “When people do raise up their box, my back thanks them.”

Still, the notices that were left in many mailboxes — Aries estimated nearly 60 percent of the mailboxes on her route of 690 — were poorly received by South Whidbey residents. One resident sent a letter to the editor to The Record, upset with the notion that he would have to go through the effort and expense to alter his mailbox to accommodate the new mail trucks.

The difficulty of erecting a new post was not lost on Wade. He said there was no new plan or date to cease mail delivery at any of the homes which received a notice and have not elevated their mailboxes. By early 2014, however, Wade said he would meet with the South Whidbey mail carriers to hear how effective the notices were and then make a decision from there.

In the meantime, Wade repeatedly stated that someone who cannot raise their mailbox because of physical or financial hardship should contact him at the Coupeville Post Office.

“I don’t expect everyone to run out there with a pickax and a 4-by-4 that day,” he said.

“All they have to do is contact me. I don’t care if I have to go out, I just want to help them out.”

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