In the face of complaints that the Brookfield Post Office was trying to twist the arm of residents to move their mail boxes to accommodate carriers, Brookfield Postmaster Linda Smith on Sept. 13 appeared before the village board to both clarify her July request and apologize to anyone who misunderstood it.

Back in July, Smith sent out a letter to Brookfield postal customers, stating that with revenues continuing to fall the Brookfield office was “requesting” that customers move their mail boxes from their front porches to ground level.

“This will result in more efficient time of delivery and fewer injuries to letter carriers,” Smith wrote.

The letter also stated, “We hope to have the full cooperation of customers residing in single-family homes and two-flat apartment buildings. We would appreciate the relocation of the mail boxes no later than Oct. 1, 2010.”

Response was swift. On July 14, the Landmark published a letter to the editor from Brookfield resident Michael Davis, who angrily dismissed the request.

“Keep my mail if you want, as it sounds like it’s just too hard for you to deliver anyway,” Davis wrote.

Village President Michael Garvey noted that residents critical of the request had also called village hall to complain. Smith said she had received calls as well, but noted that some residents also complied with the request.

Smith was quick to emphasize, however, that moving mail boxes to ground level was not mandatory. There would be no repercussions to homeowners who ignore the request.

“I apologize for any misunderstanding and want to make it perfectly clear that this is a request and only a request, not a mandate to move mail boxes to ground level,” Smith said during a two-page prepared statement she read at the Sept. 13 village board meeting.

The U.S. Postal Service is navigating choppy financial waters. According to Smith, the U.S. Postal Service lost $3.5 billion during the third quarter of the 2010 fiscal year and that mail volume was down by 700 million pieces in the third quarter compared to the previous year.

Cost cuts by the postal service have made their way to Brookfield in the form of consolidated routes. Two carrier routes were eliminated in Brookfield with remaining letter carriers picking up the slack.

The request to move mail boxes – and thereby cutting time needed to deliver the mail – has been seen by some as a way to eventually eliminate more routes and the jobs that go with them.

But Smith said that in addition to efficiency, moving mailboxes would also increase safety. In the Central Illinois District in 2009, the postal service recorded 237 injuries to carriers “due to slips and twists, unsafe stoops, trips and falls, uneven pavement and falls from porches.”

Trustee Cathy Colgrass Edwards asked Smith about senior citizens who might have trouble navigating steps themselves. Should they have to move their mail boxes?

“We understand there are elderly persons and people with disabilities who cannot move their mail boxes to the ground level,” Smith said. “We understand their needs and will continue to deliver mail to boxes remaining on their stoops.”