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Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Postal Service needs better solution to Wabash delivery cutoff

Oft-demeaned “snail mail” remains vital to tens of millions. When Postal Service carriers don’t make their deliveries, lives are disrupted.

Last month, service to 32 households along two blocks of West Wabash was cut off after threats were made against their carrier. The Postal Service’s Inspection Service determined the threats were credible.

The threats are inexcusable. It’s enough that carriers have to deal with hostile dogs and Spokane’s unplowed streets and unshoveled walks.

The offender has owned up to being “abrupt” and “rude,” but Postal Service inspectors concluded his remarks went beyond that, and they were not confined to his home. The inspectors allege threats were made off-premises as well, which explains the multi-block delivery cutoff.

A Postal Service spokesman says carrier safety is “paramount.” Unquestionably.

But penalizing innocent residents, many of them elderly, is unfair. The cluster mailboxes and free Post Office boxes offered by the Postal Service as alternatives are inferior to home delivery. Several residents say they are too incapacitated to make even short walks to retrieve mail. Some are concerned about timely receipt of mail-order medications.

A few may have to undertake the bothersome chore of changing addresses, with the potential the process will be reversed if and when their carrier returns.

Although the Postal Service in mid-June delivered a letter notifying homeowners of the delivery cutoff, several say they were caught off-guard when their mailboxes were empty. Many are getting their mail only because neighbors are willing to get it for them.

The Postal Service says service will return to normal only if the offender leaves the neighborhood. That would be asking a lot from someone, himself in his 60s, who is caring for his mother.

Perhaps respite care for her and counseling for him would relieve the strain, and stop outbursts directed at others. Clearly, help is needed.

Unfortunately, the threats have become a law enforcement matter. Results of separate investigations have been forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office for possible action. Even if a case was successfully prosecuted, the potential penalties could affect the mother as well as the son, which would be a harsh outcome.

City and federal officials are looking for alternatives, but carrier safety comes first. And the service interruption cannot be open-ended.

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