USPS says maintenance costs for cluster mailbox units now responsibility of neighborhoods

U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro sent a letter to USPS about concerns

SAN ANTONIO – Cluster mailboxes in the Oakmont Downs neighborhood are wrapped in caution tape and covered in signs that read, “mailboxes broken into” and “pick up mail at the post office.”

“We’ve been here since 2004, and we’ve had these boxes vandalized 3-4 times before this time. There’s never been a fight, an argument, or a pushback on ‘no, we’re not going to do it this time, it’s your responsibility,’” said Oakmont Downs resident Richard Martinez.

But that has changed. When the Oakmont Downs Homeowners Association reported their mailboxes were broken into last October, the USPS said it was the community’s responsibility to get it repaired.

“That emblem indicated to them that these are owned by the United States Postal Service. When homeowners had to go get a new key, they didn’t talk to the HOA. They went up there,” said Julia O’Meara, treasurer of Oakmont Downs HOA.

O’Meara contacted U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro’s office about the issue.

The congressman has since sent a letter to the USPS stating in part, “I am concerned that as USPS updates policies to lower operating costs, these new policies negatively impact mail delivery.”

In response, the USPS sent a letter back to the congressman’s office stating in part, “Headquarters and Texas 3 District officials confirmed that in the past, local managers may have made exceptions to replace or maintain older or vandalized CBUs without authorization or with approval by Southern Area leadership because of unique, extenuating circumstances. However, the responsibility to provide a mail receptacle has always been with the customer (with some customers electing to organize through a Homeowners Association representing them).”

“The United States Postal Service is refusing to maintain those mailboxes -- something that they have done in these neighborhoods, some of them for 20 or 30 years,” said Castro.

For those affected, it’s more than the inconvenience of having to go to the post office.

O’Meara said a quote for repairs started at $52,000 and that didn’t include the fee for removal or installation. She hopes this will warn other neighborhoods.

“They’re going to get blindsided. I mean, how many of them have that much money?” said O’Meara.

For now, the Oakmont Downs HOA said it’s holding out hope that the USPS will fix their mailboxes.

We asked the USPS when it put the responsibility of mailbox maintenance on communities, but they did not address that in their letter.

About the Author:

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.