GREEN BAY - FOX 11 is On Special Assignment investigating a United States Postal Service change that's being pushed through Congress.
The cost saving idea has to do with the way the USPS delivers mail to millions of homes, but saving money could have you going for a walk to get your mail.
The one thing residents like David Massey count on is the mail.
“I get four to five pieces every day, sometimes a little more,” said Massey.
Massey gets the mail through a slot on his house. All of his neighbors get door to door delivery too.
For others, postal carriers drop those letters and magazines off at a mailbox at the end of the driveway. And more and more post office officials and now members of Congress are pushing for cluster boxes, centralized locations for multiple mailboxes. The idea of cluster boxes is nothing new. They've been around since the 1980s.
Acting Green Bay Postmaster Jan Wittkopf says cluster boxes are a better way of doing business.
“If you add up all that time for a carrier to deliver to 16 or 18 customers versus standing in front of one unit, it's much more efficient to deliver to a cluster box,” said Wittkopf.
The Postal Service estimates if door to door delivery were eliminated it could save at a minimum $4 billion a year. But change doesn't come easily.
“I don't think it's a good idea, the reason being there's a lot of old people who have difficulty getting there to pick up their mail,” said Massey.
Seventy-year-old Massey of Green Bay is among the 28 percent of Americans still afforded the luxury of door to door delivery. At his age changing now would be an inconvenience, even a hardship, especially when winter weather sets in.
“I think this is better for a majority of people and I know they're trying to cut back costs but, this is something people depend on,” said Massey.
We uncovered Postal Service figures that show delivering mail to the door costs on average $353 a year per customer.
Mail delivered to a curbside mailbox runs $224 a year, while cluster mailbox delivery drops to $160 a year.
So while the post office spends $353 a year to deliver mail to Massey, it spends less than half of that to deliver mail to Carmen Carter in De Pere. Her mail is delivered to a neighborhood cluster box, two doors down and across the street.
“Do you like that?” asked FOX 11’s Mark Leland.
“No it would be nice to have it right to my door, right to my front door,” said Carter.
But Carter, who has always had her mail delivered to a cluster box, supports more uniform delivery for all.
“If it truly save them some money and it's more efficient for the post office, I'd be for that,” said Carter.
In fact door to door delivery is no longer an option for new homes or businesses. It was phased out 30 years ago. Curbside mailboxes are still an option, but the post office favors cluster boxes. Newer communities like one in Howard are encouraged to install cluster boxes. The builder incorporated the cluster boxes into the landscape at the end of the street here. But forcing the older homes with door to door delivery to change with the times isn't something the post office is willing to push on its own.
“Is mandating a change something Congress could or would do?” asked FOX 11’s Mark Leland.
“Possibly, we'll follow whatever law they enact,” replied Wittkopf.
The Postmaster General is once again asking Congress to end Saturday mail delivery to save $2 billion a year. But after losing $16 billion last year, additional cost saving options like cluster boxes need to be considered.
A House bill introduced earlier this year calls for phasing out door delivery in favor of cluster boxes.
Wisconsin Congressman Tom Petri said in a statement to FOX 11:
"The way the Postal Service operates now clearly isn't working,” Petri wrote. "Door delivery is one area that House leaders have identified as a possibility for cost reductions."
“If they said, David instead of delivering to your door now, we're going to deliver down the street. You're going to have to go get it,” stated Mark Leland.
“I would be upset, quite upset,” said Massey. “It isn't a good idea, not for the people who have it right now.”
The proposal in Congress would allow those with health or safety concerns to pay the difference to continue to have the mail delivered to their door. And it also recognizes some areas that just wouldn't work in a conversion to a cluster box, not to mention the placement of cluster boxes would have to be sorted out. Right now the congressional bill awaits consideration by the full House.
Changing the mode of mail delivery isn't the only cost saving measure under consideration in the House bill. Click here to view the entire bill for yourself.
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