By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
The mail must go through, and the developers must pay for the boxes.
At Tuesday's meeting, the Killeen City Council approved an ordinance 6-1 that requires developers to include cluster mailboxes in a plat before it can be approved. The developer must also front the cost for the concrete, cluster mailbox and installation.
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Latham was the one vote of opposition, although several council members said they would have voted against the ordinance except that doing so would hold up mail service to some Killeen residents.
"I'm very sorry our citizens have been the victims of this," Latham said.
Council members Juan Rivera and Claudia Brown said they would vote against the ordinance, but did not want to hold up mail service for residents any longer.
"Our No. 1 concern is the citizens," Councilman Larry Cole said. "If we do not act, the status quo will continue."
The conversation for such an ordinance began in March after several residents complained that they had to go to the post office to pick up their mail, rather than having it delivered. Killeen Postmaster Jeff Davis said the Postal Service could not install the cluster mailbox until all the houses in a new subdivision were complete. However, some people would move in as soon as the first house was completed.
Davis also said it is not the U.S. Postal Service's responsibility to pay for the boxes. The city, Postal Service and local developers could not strike an agreement in March.
Last week, the debate was revisited during a City Council workshop at which an ordinance mandating the developer to provide the boxes was proposed. The U.S. Postal Service manual states that the federal government entity has the liberty to deliver the mail in the most efficient manner and that the customer must pay for the mailbox.
"Our infrastructure grows at such a rate, we have to be more efficient," said James Coultress, communications director for the Rio Grande District of the U.S. Postal Service.
Davis said the most efficient way to deliver the mail is with cluster mailboxes. The ordinance passed Tuesday makes the developer the customer.
Tom Harper, a local developer and co-chair of the Government Relations Committee for the Central Texas Home Builders Association, argued that at issue should be whether the Postal Service could require cluster mailboxes.
"The homeowner should have the option to have curbside delivery," Harper said.
Harper also argued that if the Postal Service were a private entity, the city would not give in to its demands.
"This is not a developer/builder issue, it's a postal service issue and they need to be held accountable," Harper said.
Despite arguments from local developers, city staff said their hands are tied.
"Any ordinance having to do with postal delivery begins with looking at postal regulations," said Thomas Dann, city director of planning. "Killeen cannot influence or in any way change these regulations."
After a lengthy debate, Otis Evans made a motion to pass the ordinance.
"Personally, I feel like a parent with an older child and a younger child," Evans said.
Evans illustrated his point saying that the younger child is not getting what it wants and is blaming the older child.
"As Bill Cosby said, a parent does not care about justice; a parent wants peace and quiet," Evans said.
Also in Evans' motion, he added that the U.S. Postal Service must sign a written agreement that it will maintain the cluster mailboxes that are installed by developers.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7550