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Seniors Want Curbside Mail Delivery

August 20, 1999

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Army veteran Donald Gross has been through two open-heart surgeries but he thinks his daily trips to the mailbox might kill him.

``You know what this is? This is nitro,″ the 64-year-old veteran said, his voice rising as he held the heart medicine in his fist. ``I take four of these to get to the mailbox. And I take four of these to get back home.″

Gross and his neighbors at the senior community of Floral Lakes are in what they call the battle of their lives: to get the Postal Service to deliver mail to curbside boxes at their 225 homes instead of a central kiosk that’s up to a half-mile away.

The developer has agreed to pay for curbside mailboxes and reimburse the Postal Service for the $6,484 cost of the kiosk it built, but the Postal Service has not budged.

``It’s stupidity. I can’t understand the post office,″ said Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson, who visited the neighborhood this week. ``We’re fighting them on something that should not be a war.″

The fight has reached all the way to the nation’s Capitol.

Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., has held meetings in Washington and conference calls with postal officials and community leaders. Florida’s attorney general has assigned a deputy to look into the matter.

When the developer first started building homes about three years ago in this community 50 miles north of Miami, he signed an agreement with the Postal Service for central delivery, a common method used to save government money and provide more secure mail delivery.

However, as the senior citizens _ many of them veterans and retirees on Social Security _ began moving in, complaints began to mount about the long, hot trips to the kiosk.

Developer Ben Martz, chairman of Regency Homes, first wrote to the postmaster requesting curbside delivery in June 1998. After months of discussion, the Postal Service said he could have curbside delivery to the more than 300 new homes in the next three phases of the development. But as for the current homes, the Postal Service said no.

Elaine Pancake, a spokeswoman for the central Florida division of the Postal Service, said the agency is meeting with community leaders to try to resolve the issue.

``We think it’s proper to weigh all the options, and that’s what we’re doing,″ she said Thursday. ``There are service questions as well as cost considerations.″

As well as a possible precedent the Postal Service does not want to set, she acknowledged. ``Obviously there are many, many neighborhoods that have neighborhood collection boxes,″ she said.

For now, residents must make the sweaty trek to the kiosk or drive to get their mail.

``Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,″ Aaronson said, quoting the Postal Service’s unofficial motto. ``It didn’t mean these people would be the couriers.″

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