Neighbors in a Fort Caroline Lakes subdivision said they took mail delivery at home for granted until their mailboxes vanished without explanation seven weeks ago.
The community of twelve homes used a cluster box unit (CBU) which is installed by the postal service to cut costs. Derek Gilbert said neighbors spent weeks asking mail officials where the box was taken and when it would be returned. Meanwhile the residents were forced to pick up their mail from the local post office two miles away.
"We have [neighbors] that are elderly and some that are disabled and it is not convenient for them to go to the post office every single day for their mail," Gilbert told First Coast News on November 22. "One day [our mailbox] was here, the next day it's gone."
Neighbors suspected the sometimes wobbly CBU had been nabbed for repairs, but said they couldn't get confirmation from mail officials on what happened, or when the box would be replaced. Their requests to have mail left on their doorsteps or to obtain temporary P.O. boxes free of charge were denied.
"It shouldn't be this intricate to get mail," said neighbor Patricia Busch. "I went to the post office three or four times and I asked for the manager but she refused to come and talk to us."
After First Coast News' initial story aired, a U.S. Postal Service representative sent the following statement:
The Postal Service strives to provide the best possible service to our valued customers. We apologize for any inconvenience that may have been experienced, due to the damaged Cluster Box Unit (CBU) in the Ft. Caroline Lakes Community. Local postal officials at the Monument Post Office have taken steps to address the situation. The installation of the new CBU is expected to take place during the week of December 4, 2017.
Contractors installed a slab of concrete for the CBU on Monday and replaced the box on Wednesday.
Grateful neighbors say they are still surprised their issue required calling so many people.
"We did everything we knew to do, we talked to the post office, the postmaster general, we got our city councilman involved," said Gilbert. "[First Coast News] came out and within a week we had our slab poured and a brand new mailbox."
First Coast News contacted Jacksonville city council member Al Ferraro's office about the complaint. They said the Ft. Caroline Lakes Community is not alone--forty-six constituents asked for help with mailbox issues this year. Ferraro's office said they've contacted Florida senators to assist with getting a response from USPS, but the process has been slow; especially for some in the Cobblestone area who have been waiting nearly a year for a replacement box.
Statistics from 2013 show door-to-door delivery costs the Postal Service about $353 per address each year and cluster boxes cost $160 per address. Mail service to the post office for pickup saves the Postal Service even more money.
Last week, First Coast News asked USPS representative why the Ft. Caroline Lakes residents did not receive a notice about the removal of the CBU or the new location of the mail that was inside. No response has been received as of Wednesday.