The conflict between dogs and mail carriers has been with us as long as the mail.
But in Fairway and Leawood, city and postal officials have negotiated a peace, at least for now.
Mail carriers will once again deliver mail door-to-door in two neighborhoods in Fairway and Leawood, after a series of complaints about unrestrained dogs prompted the post office to cut off door delivery, angering many residents.
Those residents took their complaints to City Hall and got results.
After meeting with city officials in Fairway, postmasters in both neighborhoods have agreed to remove the central neighborhood mail boxes – called “cluster boxes” – and return door delivery service.
Except, that is, for five residents whose dogs sparked complaints with postal employees. They will have to move their mailboxes to the curb or get a post office box.
Fairway Mayor Jerry Wiley helped negotiate the compromise with the local postmaster, Russell Jacobson. He said his meeting with the local postmaster began with “some pretty strong opinions,” but ultimately led to a solution.
“It was very difficult, at some times, but for the most part respectful and cordial,” he said. “We respect the mail carriers.”
Richard Watkins, a postal service spokesman in Kansas City, said he gave credit to city officials in Fairway for mediating between residents and the post office. He said the postal service was only looking out for the safety of its mail carriers and not trying to cut costs.
“This was never about saving money,” he said. “We’re dealing with a significant safety issue, and I think this is a solution that works for everybody.”
The return of door delivery represents a reversal of postal service policy that didn’t seem likely when Fairway residents first met to protest the postmaster’s decision to stop door delivery on their blocks and the installation of cluster boxes.
Residents began complaining about the delivery changes in early May, when one of those cluster boxes appeared on the 10300 block of Lee Boulevard in Leawood. A letter from the postmaster said door delivery was cut off because mail carriers had encountered threatening dogs on that block.
On May 23, the same thing happened on the 6000 blocks of Cherokee Drive and Reinhardt Drive in Fairway.
Residents in both neighborhoods, unhappy with the change in delivery, contacted postal service officials and elected representatives.
Within days, Lee Boulevard resident Marie Morrissy planted a sign in her front yard memorializing her home mailbox. “IN MEMORY,” it read above her white rectangular mailbox. “1973-2012.” A professionally printed sign next to it reads, “IRRESPONSIBLE PET OWNERS AND AGGRESSIVE DOGS have ruined over 30 years of mail delivery to their neighbors’ doors.”
Morrissy lives several houses away from the cluster box, at the top of a slope. One neighbor with heart trouble could not retrieve his own mail because of the difficult walk. And traffic is busy on Lee Boulevard, a factor that should have been considered, she said.
Morrissy sent letters — by certified mail —to those in power, the U.S. postmaster general, the local postmaster, Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder and her city councilman among them. She was hopeful the decision would be overturned.
“I was not going to stop until it was,” she said.
In Fairway, residents organized quickly.
John St. Clair, a former Fairway mayor, unhappy with the delivery change, helped organize a neighborhood meeting to formulate a response. At the time, he called the post office’s action “draconian.” He said he disliked the abruptness the decision and thought postal service officials should have spoken with residents.
He and other neighbors contacted postal officials and their U.S. representatives and senators and worked with their city government.
Fairway passed a resolution on June 11 opposing the post office’s move to install cluster boxes and stop door delivery without the consent of residents.
On Thursday, Jacobs, Fairway’s postmaster, announced door delivery would return according to an agreement with city officials. He sent a letter to residents on the affected blocks apologizing for the inconvenience.
By Friday, mail carriers were back to door delivery in Fairway and the post office removed all the cluster boxes. Door delivery returned Tuesday to the 10300 block of Lee Boulevard.
One cluster box will remain in each neighborhood until the post offices have confirmed new delivery arrangements for the five dog owners who had been the subject of complaints.
St. Clair said the agreement was exactly what the neighbors had proposed from the beginning and an example of successful civic action.
“We’re very pleased,” St. Clair said. “It’s about making your voice heard, respectfully and with facts. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Not everyone is completely satisfied.
Some remain annoyed with the way postal service officials handled the situation.
“It took them too long,” Morrissy said. “It should never have never happened in the first place.”
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