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New Homeowners Rail Against Mail in Dracut

February 16, 2019 GMT

A popular tradition holds that nothing will deter mail carriers “from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” As soon-to-be residents of Wheeler Village are learning, however, those rounds are no longer traditional.

With families slated to move into the 71-home subdivision near St. Francis Church on Wheeler Road, the U.S. Postal Service recently announced it will not deliver mail to individual residences.

The post office considers them new addresses and thus subject to a new approach to mail delivery.

The subdivision must install kiosks for all letters, bills and catalogs where mail carriers will deposit them. It is a system the Postal Service calls centralized delivery.

The good news is that mail carriers will deliver packages to the door.

Town Manager James Duggan received a complaint two weeks ago from a resident who has already moved into the neighborhood of $500,000-plus homes.

The resident was told that the carrier would not deliver his mail, and that he would have to come to the post office to pick it up because there is no kiosk on site.

These homes are free-standing and not part of a homeowners association, so the question of mail kiosks never came up when the subdivision went through the planning and permitting process.

“We never made it part of our review with the developer,” Duggan said.

The post office told Duggan the town was notified of the change. Duggan disputes that. Dracut Postmaster Michael Morris told Duggan the USPS is trying to operate more like a business. The postmaster did not return phone calls from The Sun.

“It’s financial to them. It seems to be a labor-management issue,” Duggan said.

Mail carriers are paid based on the number of stops they make, according to Duggan. Essentially, fewer stops helps the post office’s bottom line.

He asked Betsy Ware, the town’s community development director, to research the issue and see if other towns have experienced the problem. Ware queried fellow planners in the state and received about a dozen responses. Only Bridgewater reported that its post office follows the kiosk requirement. Other communities, including Chelmsford, Tewksbury, Methuen and North Andover, have not encountered the situation, she said.

The Beverly town planner thanked Ware for the warning about what might be coming. Bridgewater reported that its post office has required this for a couple of years.

Brian Lussier, the developer of Wheeler Village, said, “This was not a requirement at subdivision I completed in the fall,” referring to Fox Run II, a 58-home development off March Hill Road.

The Dracut postmaster’s demand poses a number of problems for Wheeler Village, where Lussier reports four homes have closed and 10 are under agreement.

“No one own will own the property where the kiosks will be. Who will maintain them? Who will shovel them out?” Lussier asks. “It is unfortunate that the Postal Service continues to push this clearly unwanted delivery method, to the detriment of the carriers that work for them and the customers that they serve.”

He has appealed the decision and has had the appeal rejected. He is now pursuing a different route of appeal.

“We are fighting this decision,” he said.

Joyce Andrews, whose family will move to a home in Wheeler Village at the end of this month, called the situation “very disappointing.”

“How was the town not notified? Why was the process not followed?” she said.

Her family put a deposit on a lot almost 18 months ago. It already had a street address. In fact, Lussier said street addresses were assigned by the town assessors a decade ago, but the development was put on hold because of the financial crisis at the time.

Andrews wonders where the land for the kiosks will come from since the land is already subdivided. “Will someone have to lose a corner of their lot?” she asked.

U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan’s office is now involved. The congresswoman issued the following statement: “Jim Duggan, the town manager of Dracut, called me to raise his concern that residents in certain areas were not getting their mail delivered. Since then my office has been in direct contact with the US Postal Service, and we are working on a solution to this problem. I will do everything I can to make sure that Dracut residents are able to get their mail.”

While the Dracut postmaster did not return calls, Stephen Doherty, a spokesman for the regional office in Boston, released this statement: “It has been a long standing requirement that developers contact their local Post Office during the planning stages of projects so as to receive authorization and approval on the mode of mail delivery. The centralization focus has been prevalent throughout the country for several years now, with Postal Officials attending NAHB conventions to speak with builders and developers regarding centralization.”