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City, federal officials meet with U.S. Postal Service over mail stoppage in Shadle-Garland

UPDATED: Wed., July 26, 2017, 10:05 p.m.

A home on the 2700 block of West Wabash is seen on Friday, July 7, 2017, in Spokane, Wash. Neighbors had their mail stopped after a man they say living in this home allegedly threatened a postal worker with a butter knife. Delivery resumed to residents in the three affected blocks, but home delivery remains out of reach. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
A home on the 2700 block of West Wabash is seen on Friday, July 7, 2017, in Spokane, Wash. Neighbors had their mail stopped after a man they say living in this home allegedly threatened a postal worker with a butter knife. Delivery resumed to residents in the three affected blocks, but home delivery remains out of reach. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

City officials and members of the U.S. Congress are in conversation with the United States Postal Service concerning a mail stoppage that has plagued three blocks of West Wabash Avenue since mid-June.

Last Thursday, Councilwoman Karen Stratton met with Greater Spokane Postmaster Earl Eisenrich to discuss possible solutions, as well as to gather more information about the situation that caused the USPS to halt mail delivery to 32 houses along the 2600, 2700 and 2800 blocks of West Wabash .

Also present were representatives from the offices of Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, two USPS investigators, customer relations coordinator Mary Smith and Spokane city administrator Theresa Sanders.

“I think everyone around the table recognizes the position of the USPS,” Stratton said. “I think they realize that we, and our constituents, feel helpless, since there is little we can do without their help.”

Mail delivery was halted June 15 after months of threats directed at a postal carrier by Greg Huston, a resident on the 2700 block. Residents have been frustrated by what they described as a lack of communication by USPS about the mail stoppage, and said they felt USPS had shown a lack of interest in consulting the community on finding a solution.

As of Monday, USPS spokesman Ernie Swanson told The Spokesman-Review that the situation remained unchanged.

Stratton said she and the other representatives at the meeting have been speaking with affected residents, and that her own experience with her mother – who is 90 years old and relies upon USPS to deliver vital medicines and other mail – has helped inform her of the difficulties that many of the elderly residents on those blocks face.

While at least 19 of the residents have claimed free P.O. boxes provided by USPS at the Shadle-Garland Post Office, many of the residents are unhappy that doing so would require them to change their addresses. USPS should look into whether it is possible to just tape residents’ current addresses to P.O. boxes so that no change of address is required, Stratton said.

The group also inquired whether volunteers, including Stratton, could arrange to pick up mail for residents until a more permanent solution is hammered out. USPS said it could be possible, but there would be liability issues at play, she said.

Stratton said they also asked whether USPS could continue holding the mail for residents. However, USPS spokesman Swanson told The Spokesman-Review last month that it would not be feasible to do so.

Finally, the representatives asked USPS to provide more information on their line-of-sight policy. One reason mail has stopped to 32 homes is because USPS considers its postal workers to be at risk if they are anywhere within the line of sight of Huston’s house. Though mail delivery has stopped along Wabash, other nearby mail delivery routes have continued despite being within clear view of Huston, frustrated residents say.

Stratton has asked USPS to check back in with her and the other representatives with answers in the next few weeks. That information, along with any other details the group learns, will be communicated through two volunteer neighborhood spokespeople, in addition to a written update that Stratton’s office will hand-deliver to homes, she said.

“I really walked away feeling that Mr. Eisenrich was willing to go that extra mile to find a solution,” Stratton said.