During a recent city council meeting resident Robert White voiced a concern that the mailbox near the intersection of C Street and South Pine Street had suddenly been removed.
The mailbox was a recent installation, a “cluster box” that combined several addresses into a convenient spot. Back in August 2018, the residents around the area no longer received mail to their personal boxes, and switched to the cluster box that serves 16 households.
The missing cluster box proved especially egregious to White since he and his wife reportedly rely on medicine sent through the mail.
Now the cluster box is beside the Bonne Terre Post Office — several blocks away, and for many, much more than walking distance. There are a total of three cluster boxes now, with 48 total addresses served.
City Administrator Shawn Kay said that he had been in contact with U.S. Rep. Jason Smith’s office and with the USPS Consumer Affairs department to try to get the mailbox returned to the neighborhood.
The concerned citizen introduced a new factor, saying that the first priority should actually be to take care of the dangerous dog around the neighborhood. Kay confirmed that the USPS had cited dogs as a problem with that location.
“I have instructed (the police) that if (the dog) is running loose, if someone complains, he is to ticket the owner and we are to confiscate the dog so that we can get the mail service repaired,” Kay said.
White said he was frustrated by all of the requirements to call the police on the dog, such as having to know its location, keeping it restrained, and more.
He said that a neighbor called the police about a dog biting people but the police said they hadn’t heard anything about it. White then said he had 17 stitches in his hand from being bitten by it.
Police Chief Doug Calvert said that he was aware of the problem and had put in a lot of time and effort to handle the situation. The city has a dog catcher n but he is also occupied with other duties with the city crew.
Calvert said that he had talked to the city council about using some of the budget from the recently voted property tax for hiring a nuisance officer for the police department like Desloge has.
He said measures taken to see the dog when dispatched haven’t been fruitful.
“Every time we’re called on a dog,” Calvert said, “I’ve gone several times myself, and the dog has not been there.”
Calvert said that a postal worker was reportedly bitten by a dog, but the only record on file in that area is about a dog who tore up trash. The USPS has provided no evidence of this to him.
In order for the USPS to return the mailbox, they requested the city to guarantee that no postal worker would ever be bitten by dogs, which Calvert considered an absurd demand.
“That’s basically like you saying you’re not sending any post trucks to Bonne Terre,” Calvert said, “because I can’t guarantee one of them won’t be in a wreck. That’s not acceptable.”
He elaborated on the policy for catching dogs, saying that it was zero tolerance. If they see the dog when called, they can ticket the person responsible for it, if they know who it is. They can impound only if the dog catcher could reach it. They’re not allowed to “dart” dogs anymore since no vets would reportedly sign off on the serum. The only other way, outside of using Tasers, are a hook and a lanyard — an ineffective tool.
Just one single dog can be defended against to protect their own life, but numerous calls to the police about dogs have been negated for many reasons.
“Sometimes people won’t sign a complaint,” Calvert said. “Sometimes the officer doesn’t see the dog. Sometimes the dog catcher can’t catch the dog.”
“With 11 officers answering 6,200 or more calls a month, without a full-time nuisance/dog catcher, it’s really hard,” he said. “Anytime you see it out, dial (573) 431-3131.” Later on in the council meeting, Calvert said he had already assigned an officer to patrol the area for the dog that evening.
Despite all of Kay’s efforts, he had said that he was stonewalled by the USPS and couldn’t do anything to restore the boxes to their original locations until further notice. He promised to continue to work with them, however, and later asked the USPS to notify the residents who were affected by their abrupt removal of their cluster box.
Kay said he contacted USPS and was waiting for a reply back about a policy in the Postal Operations Manual (POM) Section 631.2, subsection a), which allegedly says cluster boxes must be safely located where customers are not required to travel an unreasonable distance to obtain their mail.
Kay said he asked them if the distance from the original location to the new one was considered reasonable, and that he was waiting for a reply back.
Matthew Morey is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3617, or at email@example.com.