DALTON, Ga. — For as long as Dalton City Council member Tyree Goodlett can remember, the mailbox in front of his home on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard had pointed parallel to the street.
"I asked my mom, and she said the house was built in 1961 and it (the mailbox) has been like that since then," he said.
But a few weeks ago, the U.S. Postal Service turned that mailbox and approximately 50 others on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Fields Avenue so that the front of the mailbox now faces the street. Because those mailboxes are close to the street, they now stick out well past the curb.
"The face of the mailboxes now hangs out about eight inches into the gutter," said Dalton Assistant Public Works Director Andrew Parker.
Goodlett has already seen his mailbox clipped by the mirror of a passing truck and knocked over, which was captured on video, and hit two other times.
Parker said city officials are also concerned that some residents now have to step into the street to get their mail. He said when the city was widening Fields Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard a few years ago it had to relocate the mailboxes.
"When we put them back, we put back new mailboxes, but we put them back just like they had been for decades," he said. "Some mailboxes can be opened from both the front and back. But because we put those mailboxes in the way they had been (parallel to the street), the mailboxes we put in can only be opened from the front. It's an unfortunate situation."
Calls by a reporter to a phone number for Dalton Postmaster Kerri Patten went unanswered. When a reporter asked if it would be possible to speak with Patten or another official about why the mailboxes were rearranged, Susan W. Wright, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service, asked the reporter to email questions to her.
Wright said the changes were made because of "safety concerns for our letter carriers."
"Mailboxes located (parallel) to the street do not allow for mail delivery without unnecessary maneuvers by the letter carrier," she said in an email. "Our policy is to avoid situations that require backing to protect our employees, customers, and property, and is not specific to any one area."
Goodlett wrote in an email to Patten on Wednesday that he had visited her office three times about the matter "and each time you have failed to come to the front and speak with me."
"My mailbox has been hit three different times since your department repositioned the mailboxes," he wrote. "And I was informed that until I reposition my mailbox to the unsafe position you have suspended my mail service? Yet when I ride around the city there are mailboxes on Underwood Street that remain parallel to the street, mailboxes on Grimes Street are even behind the sidewalk, there are even some on MLK Blvd. that are still parallel to the street and you continue to provide service to these residents."
Patten responded in an email, "I apologize for any issues that you are having. ... If you can provide me your address and a contact number, I will be happy to look into this for you."
Jose Sanchez lives just off Fields Avenue. He said his mailbox was not affected.
"I saw that some of them have been changed but I didn't know why," he said. "I have seen people stepping out into the street (to get their mail)."
Parker said he has spoken to Postal Service officials and was told the mailboxes had not met the Postal Service's standards and the changes were needed to bring them into compliance with Postal Service regulations. He said Dalton received a new postmaster last fall and when she was driving around to familiarize herself with the area she saw those mailboxes were not in compliance.
Parker said Public Works Department officials believe they can move the mailboxes on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Fields Avenue back so that they don't stick out over the curb, and can also put in new mailboxes that can be opened from the back.
"Typically, this would be the homeowners' responsibility," he said. "But we feel like that because the (Fields Avenue) project may have played a role in this and the Postal Service wasn't satisfied with that, we should do this. I've got to get together with the Postal Service to see if that would meet their requirements."
Parker said he met with Postal Service officials on Wednesday and they were amenable to that solution. He said the next step will be to bring the proposal to the city's Public Works Committee and to the City Council to see if they will agree to the plan, which would have the city buy about 50 new mailboxes costing about $38 or $39 each.
On some of the side streets off of Fields Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard some of the mailboxes remain parallel to the street. Parker said the Postal Service indicated it had sent letters to those residents saying the mailboxes will have to be turned so they face the street.
Wright said anyone with questions can call Patten at (706) 279-0751. Guidelines on how mailboxes should be placed can be found at www.usps.com/manage/mailboxes.htm.