By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
After an ordinance intended to fix the problem was approved more than six months ago, some Killeen residents are not getting their mail.
An impasse with the Killeen City Council, local developers and U.S. Postal Service led Mayor Timothy Hancock to halt discussions and call for a meeting outside the council workshop. Hancock asked for the city staff, local developers, postal service representatives and affected residents to meet "and see if we can't come to a resolution."
This came after developers, a representative from the U.S. Postal Service and council members debated who should pay for central box units – group mailboxes – in new subdivisions.
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Latham, while agreeing with the mayor, said he was disappointed.
"It took me a month to get this on the agenda, and I'm frustrated it was swept under the carpet," Latham said.
Hancock said the city will mediate to reach a swift conclusion.
"It will be done post-haste; it will not be delayed," Hancock said. "I don't see any other way to do it."
The City Council approved an ordinance on June 26, 2007, that requires the developer to pour the concrete slab, buy the cluster mailbox and install it for every new subdivision in Killeen. The type and placement of box must be approved by the U.S. Postal Service. The ordinance applies only to subdivisions that are platted and approved after the ordinance took effect.
The post office's gripe was that it cannot afford to pay for all the cluster mailboxes, which run $800 to $900 for a box to serve 16, and federal regulations dictate it is the customer's responsibility to provide the box – not the postal service.
The ordinance cannot be retroactive for subdivisions that were platted before the ordinance took effect. Andrew Allemand, interim planning director, said a developer can have a plat approved and not build on it for an indefinite amount of time.
If the developer begins building years after the plat is approved, and the city has since set new standards, the development does not have to adhere to the standards set after the plat was approved.
Tony Daniels, road coordinator for the U.S. Postal Service in Killeen, spoke on behalf of the Killeen post office. Postmaster Jefferson Davis was unable to attend the workshop because he had to be at another meeting, Daniels said. The Killeen post office has bought and placed 75 cluster boxes since July 6, according to Daniels. He said the post office cannot afford to keep doing that.
Councilman Billy Workman suggested the city investigate the possibility of the city pitching in funds to help ease the cost.
"This is like wagging the dog, we can talk all day long," Workman said, adding that the council won't get anything done until the two parties – developers and post office – reach an agreement.
City Attorney Kathy Davis said city money must be used for a public purpose and that is at the discretion of the council. She said helping pay for mailboxes might be appropriate. If the council agreed to it and there was room in the city budget, the city would not have to pay for mailboxes on plats approved after June 26.
"As long as this ordinance stays in effect, we're covered," Davis said.
But no one could give an estimated cost in the long run. Allemand said there is no way to know how many mailboxes would have to be paid for, because some plats were approved as far back as 30 years, and it is unknown if and when they will be developed.
"I think all this issue is about money," Latham said.
Steve Shepherd, a local developer, said it costs about $50 to pour the concrete pad and install the $900 box that serves 16 residences. That's about $59 per residence.
Gary Purser Sr., a local developer, said paying for the boxes could cost him as much as $150,000.
The council gave consensus to move forward with the mayor's plan for all parties to meet and discuss options, including the city covering part of the cost.
"So it is apparent to me both groups are going to have to learn to love each other, so let's get busy with it," Councilman Otis Evans said.
Latham, Councilman Juan Rivera and Councilman Kenny Wells called for the June 26 ordinance to be rescinded. But the rest of the council disagreed.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7550