By Jonni Joyce
Confusion continues over the decision of the U.S. Postal Service in Martin, S.D. to charge area businesses for post office boxes that, according to local resident Brian Kirk, have been free for over 100 years.
This decision was prompted by the Martin City Council’s on Ordinance 202 which defines nuisances and specifically what private structures are prohibited in the public right of way.
According to the ordinance adopted on January 12, 2016, it is unlawful for any person to erect a mailbox on the public right of way and anyone doing so can be fined $200. The exception is any traffic control device or traffic sign.
Upon passing the ordinance, the U.S. Postal Service advised local business owners and residents that had been receiving free post office boxes that they would now have to pay for their boxes.
“This became an unforeseen consequence of the passing of the ordinance,” stated Brian Kirk, President of the Martin area Chamber of Commerce.
Kirk, along with Tim Huether, the owner and publisher of the Bennett County Booster II, addressed the issue with the city council at their August meeting.
“We have asked the council to rescind the ordinance,” said Kirk.
“Mail delivery is already paid for by the sender. We see this as a tax to receive mail,” Kirk said.
According to the U.S. Postal Service, mail delivery is supposed to be free. Every citizen has the right to have mail delivered to their location unless their location is not on an established delivery route. In that case, that resident qualifies for a free post office box.
Exceptions to this rule found in the Domestic Mail Manual, the guiding document of the U.S. Postal Service include any ordinance that is passed by local government that would prevent the delivery of the mail.
Local businesses now must decide if they wish to demand delivery to their physical address during normal business hours or pay for their boxes.
According to Kirk, that solution has an additional problem. The contractors who deliver the mail in Bennett County do not have to leave their vehicles to deliver.
All of this makes one wonder just exactly how the residents and business owners of Martin are supposed to receive the services of the U.S. Postal service just as any other Main Street in America.
“If the council would just address the wording of the ordinance this would fix the problem,” said Tim Huether.
This matter continues to be a discussion amongst business owners in Martin.
“As business people in the community, we certainly understand the Postal Service trying to improve their bottom line. But, if we are entitled to free delivery of our mail like any other individual or business along the established mail contract route, then we shouldn’t have to start paying for it based upon the recent city ordinance preventing mail boxes in the City right of way,” Kirk said.
“On behalf of the local area Chamber of Commerce, I have asked the City Council to reconsider the ordinance #202 banning the mailboxes. We don’t believe it has been an issue for the last 100 years and we do not foresee it becoming an issue in the future,” said Kirk.