For the last month, 14 residents in the Tempe Gardens Division No. 12 neighborhood have not received their mail in their home mailboxes.
Instead, they've had to walk as far as 1,000 feet away to a neighborhood delivery and collection box unit (NDCBU) that the U.S. Postal Service placed on Jentilly Lane on Jan. 31. The reason? On Dec. 24, a mail carrier was severely attacked by a pit bull chained in the front yard of a home on Greenway Drive to the point the carrier remains off work while undergoing rehabilitation.
The Tempe Gardens neighborhood is south of the U.S. 60 and east of Rural Road. Other residents not getting standard mail delivery to their doors live on Carson and Lakeshore drives.
In a letter from the Postal Service dated Feb. 1 that was hand delivered to the neighborhood the day after, residents were informed that home delivery of their mail was being suspended on a temporary basis, informing them of the pit bull incident involving the mail carrier.
In the meantime, about half of the 14 residents aren't accepting the keys to their new mail boxes in the NDCBU and want the home delivery of their mail returned, said Richard Hunter, a resident in the 1000 block of Greenway Drive trying to open up the lines of communication between the neighborhood and Postal Service managers.
"We want our mail back," said Hunter, who has lived in the neighborhood since the 1970s. "We're an older neighborhood, and we've received home delivery of our mail for 40 years. First and foremost, we'd like to receive our mail at our door. We don't want the NDCBU here. I've been trying to get someone from the post office to sit down and talk with me or at least schedule an appointment, and no one wants to talk to me."
Hunter recently wrote a letter to Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman and U.S. Rep. David Schweikert in an attempt to be heard.
On Tuesday, Hunter and other neighbors also filed a class action civil complaint in the University Lakes Justice Court against the owner of the pit bull. They are attempting to get the animal deemed vicious so its owner would be required to keep it better confined in hopes of getting the U.S. Postal Service to remove the NDCBU and reinstate home delivery of their mail.
Hunter also said he has tried to get in touch with Dan Toth, the manager of the U.S. Post Office at Southern and College avenues in Tempe about the situation, but hasn't heard back from him.
When Toth was contacted by the Tribune this week, he said that the NDCBU was not going to be permanent "at this point," but would not further comment as to when mail delivery would return to the homes.
A spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Phoenix told the Tribune on Thursday that home delivery would return once the threat of the dog is removed.
"Until we are assured that dog no longer is a threat, the residents in the neighborhood will continue to get their mail the way they are receiving it now," said Peter Hass, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman. "It's unfortunate for the neighborhood, but we feel that if this happened once, it could happen again. The safety of our mail carriers is our utmost concern."
Hass said that on Thursday a substitute carrier inadvertently delivered mail to homes, but that residents should continue to expect to pick up their mail at the neighborhood box.
Hunter acknowledged that the Postal Service never told the neighborhood's residents that the Postal Service was going to end mail delivery to their homes, but added, "I highly doubt that the NDCBU is a temporary solution."
"What I'd like from the Postal Service is something outlining the steps we need to take to regain our home mail delivery," Hunter said.