January 26, 2008 in HandleX

Mail service stopped on Triangle 7

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photo

Homer Davis stands near the designated mailbox area at the bottom of Triangle 7 Road in Hayden Lake last week. He is just one of several Hayden Lake residents living on Triangle 7 Road who is upset because the postmaster cut off mail delivery to their houses in November saying that the road is unsafe.
(Full-size photo)

HAYDEN LAKE – Triangle 7 Road perched above Hayden Lake has become Idaho’s new Bermuda Triangle of mail, with residents fighting the U.S. Postal Service over the local postmaster’s decision to halt mail delivery to their homes.

The postmaster stopped service along the road last fall, saying the road was too dangerous.

It’s a declaration that confuses residents who point out that in the nine years that they were getting mail delivery to the ends of their driveways, Lakes Highway District improved the 1.5-mile-long Triangle 7 Road, widening it and improving curves.

“Our road is now much better than when the mail route was established,” said Homer Davis, who has lived on the road for 10 years.

When the route was added in 1999, the road was 16 feet wide in places. Now it is 24 feet wide in most places and at least 20 feet wide everywhere else.

The road is graded and the highway district applies gravel after snowstorms.

The battle began last fall when the letter carrier on the route complained that she did not feel comfortable driving along it.

“When a carrier brings a safety issue to management, we are obligated to investigate. I did investigate and I concurred,” said Postmaster Barbara Puckett, who took the post last summer.

Puckett sent the occupants of 15 homes along the route letters in September telling them that their at-home service would end on Oct. 12. She later extended the deadline to late November.

The last pieces of mail were delivered to Triangle 7 Road homes around Thanksgiving.

Retiree Bea Palmer used to ride her motorized scooter to the end of her driveway to pick up her mail. Now she has to rely on her son to take her to pick it up in town.

Two other residents relocated their mailboxes to the bottom of the hill as requested by the Postal Service. The others are locked in a standoff, either having their mail held at the post office or forwarded to private mailboxes at a local UPS store.

Puckett points out that the Postal Service agreed to purchase a locked mailbox unit to install at the bottom of the Triangle 7 hill for central mail service but the residents refused.

Besides being less convenient than mailboxes at the ends of their driveways, the location at the bottom of the hill is unsatisfactory because it’s often clogged with snowmobilers and ATV enthusiasts’ trailers left while they head into the forest, and is sometimes the site of drinking and parties, Davis said.

It’s the road that’s unsafe, Puckett said.

She cited the road’s 20-foot width in places (standards call for 24 feet), a lack of guardrails and some blind corners as reasons it isn’t safe for the letter carrier to drive along.

But Triangle 7 Road residents researched other local roads and found that many are narrower than Triangle 7 and get no treatment after snowfalls. Yet residents along those roads continue to receive mail service.

“Even Hayden Lake Road is only 20 feet wide in places and it’s an arterial,” said Davis. “They’re delivering on roads that are 10 feet wide and unmaintained.”

To Davis’ and his neighbors’ frustration, Puckett refused to consider the condition of other roads in her decision.

“Currently Triangle 7 Road is the only road I’m concerning myself with,” she said of their arguments that they only want to be treated the same as people living on other roadways.

“If they tried to stop delivering on Hayden Lake Road, they’d get too many complaints,” said Triangle 7 resident Stew Colpitts. The 15 households along his road just don’t wield the same kind of political power, Colpitts said.

Residents’ appeals to Puckett’s superiors and U.S. Sen. Larry Craig have also brought them no relief.

Triangle 7 Road resident Edward Gill wonders if the suspension of service along the road has more to do with the time it takes than safety.

That’s not the case, said Puckett: “We’re in the business of delivering the mail. We’re not looking for reasons to not deliver the mail,” she said.

But Triangle 7 residents vow to continue their fight.

“If we believed the road was dangerous, we’d shut up,” Davis said.


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