It may not be the official motto of the U.S. Postal Service, but it’s been engraved for 108 years on the facade of the main Postal Service building in Manhattan: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Except on Oak Place in Flagler Beach.
It’s not snow. It’s not rain. It’s certainly not heat or gloom of night in this corner of the Sunshine State. It appears to be just plain indifference: the Postal Service just doesn’t want to be bothered. What justifications it provides for refusing service there don’t square with the reality of the street.
And so several days every month, Flagler Beach resident Scott Streit has to make quite an effort to pay his bills. He must go down to the county property tax office to pay his bill, after finding out what it is. He needs to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles regularly and pay his bills, after finding out what those costs are. Any official documents from a city, state or federal office, Streit has to leave his residence at 1839 Oak Place and go to the appropriate office to retrieve any bills or correspondence that were not delivered to his house, and take care of it all there.
The reason: Streit doesn’t get mail delivery. Every piece of mail that’s sent to him gets returned as “Returned to Sender, no receptacle” because the United States Postal Service will not deliver mail to Oak Place.
Residents like Scott and Denise Streit, Rita and David Thornton, and two generations of the Schmidt family have been complaining for years that despite many other types of delivery trucks being able to negotiate the sand road of Oak Place, the USPS just won’t do it. The road is neither impassable nor unusual: it’s one of innumerable dirt roads in Flagler Beach or unincorporated Flagler, and comparatively speaking, it’s in better shape than some roads in, say, Daytona North, where mail delivery is not an issue.
“We get lots of other trucks and deliveries down here, but for years the post office has ignored us and refused to give us a legitimate reason for not delivering,” Streit said. “It makes no sense.”
After several weeks of phone calls and emails and being promised a response, FlaglerLive finally received a statement from Tracie Finley, a USPS Strategic Communications Specialist based in Florida: “We apologize for any inconvenience that may have been experienced by customers living on Oak Place in the Flagler Beach community. Delivery mode options are constrained by USPS policies and procedures, characteristics of the area to be served and the methods needed to provide adequate service, while safely delivering the mail.
“In compliance with these requirements, the established mode of delivery to Oak Place residents is to mailboxes at the intersection of 19th Street South and Oak Place, where customers have safe and reasonable access to their mail.”
Finley did not explain what made delivery to the individual houses unsafe.
According to Streit, he’s received three different reasons over the last few years as for why the U.S. Postal Service won’t deliver to his street.
First he says he was told by the postmaster of Palm Coast, Catherine Heidkamp (her territory also covers Flagler Beach), that they don’t deliver to sand roads, but Streit then drove around to other parts of Flagler that had sanded roads and saw mail at those houses. The Hammock, for example, is full of such roads.
Then, Streit said, he was told a few months later that the USPS “doesn’t back up our vehicles” and that’s why they couldn’t come on Oak Place. “And then we filmed a mailman driving along a route and saw him back up plenty of times, and told (Heitkamp) that,” Streit said. “So there went that one.”
Finally, Streit says he was told that Oak Place was undeliverable because “it’s not a viable street.”
“The city was even great about it and came out and cut the overgrowth vegetation by about four feet, to widen the road and make it easier to pass by, and they still wouldn’t come deliver our mail.
“But 10-ton dump trucks, they have no problem. It’s just so ridiculous.”
Pressed as to what, specifically is the concern about delivering to Oak Place addresses, Finley emailed that “In this case, safety was the primary determining factor. There are safety concerns with the layout of the road, due to the fact that there is not enough passable space for our carriers to maneuver. We are committed to providing all of our customers with delivery service within safety guidelines.”
“That’s a lot of baloney,” said Thornton, whose grandfather, William J. Thornton, was postmaster general of Long Island City, N.Y. from 1932-37. “We have seen plenty of good-sized UPS trucks, and garbage trucks, and FedEx trucks get up and down our street with no problem.”
Nate Schmidt, a former resident of Oak Place, confirms Thornton and Streit’s accounts (as would any drive in any ordinary vehicle down the street).
“You saw FedEx and UPS trucks backing up, turning around, the whole deal, whenever they needed to,” Schmidt said. “It’s just a pain.”
“It’s a quality-of-life issue,” Thornton added. “People maybe don’t think about their mailboxes when buying a new house, but we’ve got new construction going up here now and if people know they won’t get mail, well, that’s something to consider and it could drive down property values.” (Several new houses are going up at the south end of the street.)
Larry Newsom, the Flagler Beach city manager, said he has written two letters to the local postmaster, Heidkamp, stating that Oak Place is “a viable right of way” road. Both his letters were ignored.
“A dirt road is a dirt road, and it’s wide enough for the town vans and lots of other vehicles, and we don’t understand why the post office won’t deliver there to Oak Place,” Newsom said. “Our residents came to us with a problem, and we’re trying to do whatever we can to fix the problem. If the postmaster responded that we need this, this and this to be able to deliver there, then give me the criteria and we’ll see if we can make it happen.
“But they haven’t done that.”
When asked, specifically, what could be done for the residents of Oak Place to get their mail, Finley emailed that “The Postal Service will reevaluate road conditions, if improvements are made. In the case of this particular road, for example, if the road was widened to allow for two-way traffic, that may resolve safety concerns.”
She did not comment on the fact that UPS, FedEx and other construction vehicles that are much wider than USPS trucks make deliveries on Oak Place all the time, Schmidt, Thornton and Streit said.
Streit said the post office’s suggestion of putting a mail receptacle at the corner of 19th Street South and Oak Place isn’t feasible for himself and older residents of Oak Place, since the corner is 120 yards from his doorstep and he doesn’t feel it’s safe to pull over at the corner and get out to retrieve mail.
“My wife (Denise) has cancer and several others of us have health problems, and it’s not so easy to walk all the way down there,” Streit said. “We’re not asking for any special treatment, all we want is for the services provided everywhere else, to be provided to us.”