When the U.S. Postal Service took out the mail collection box in the Meadow Plaza shopping center this summer, it was just one casualty of the agency’s billions of dollars in losses.
But for Northbrook’s downtown residents and regular Meadow Plaza shoppers, the loss of the collection box—located in the parking lot for easy drive-up access—had much larger reverberations.
In a column published Tuesday, Northbrook Star writer Karie Angell Luc reported that she’d heard from several readers who lamented the disappearance of the box, which the postal service removed in August.
“It is so difficult to find a parking spot to drop mail at the in-town post office,” one reader wrote to Luc. “And it is more difficult to be getting in and out of the car in poor weather.”
Several months ago, property owner Jay Heitman asked the postal service to pay for repairs to the asphalt around the box, which is dotted with potholes so big you could swim in them, Heitman jokes.
“We twice repaired the potholes in front of it and we thought maybe the third time the post office would do it,” Heitman told Patch. He estimated that he had spent a total of $5,000 to fix the parking lot he owns.
When he asked the post office to repair the asphalt, he said he was told that the post office had put in a work order—but nothing happened.
“The post office put it off and for five months they didn’t do it,” he said. “We just got disgusted.”
Heitman said he didn’t mind having the collection box on his property—in fact, he saw it as a convenience for potential customers—but he didn’t feel that he should be responsible for maintaining the asphalt it sat on.
“We finally said, ‘Fix the thing or take it out,’” he said.
Postal service spokesperson Sean Hargadon confirmed Heitman’s story, and said that the agency simply didn’t have the money to make such repairs.
“We’ve lost more than $25 billion in the past six years,” he told Patch. “We’re really not at liberty to make any updates right now.”
Hargadon noted that there are 14 collection boxes (nine of them at or inside the two post offices) within one mile of the shopping plaza on Meadow Lane. The closest collection boxes is outside the satellite post office on Church Street, across from the shopping plaza, while another box is located at Village Hall, one block west.
Nationwide, first-class mail volume has dropped by 50 percent over the last ten years, and the number of blue collection boxes has gone down proportionately, according to Hargadon. While he didn’t foresee the immediate removal of any other boxes or the closure of either post office in Northbrook, Hargadon said he expected the number to change over time. The post office regularly tests boxes around the area to see whether they are being used—and for now, it appears that they are.
“In many ways, it’s great news to hear that people use the blue boxes in Northbrook,” Hargadon said.
While the post office has no plans to return the collection box at Meadow Plaza, Heitman hopes the agency will have a change of heart.
“It would just be easier if the post office would put some asphalt in there in those big holes, tamp it down, put the damn box back and call it a day,” he said. “I don’t know how this thing has gotten out of hand.”
It appears that some Northbrook residents agree. And Northbrook Star columnist Luc is hoping that those folks will take an old-fashioned method to get the post office’s attention: mail a letter. She urges concerned citizens to “stuff the Northbrook post office with ‘Save Our Downtown Drive-Up Mailbox’ letters,” which can be sent to the Northbrook Post Office, 2460 Dundee Road, Northbrook, IL, 60062.
If you can find a collection box, that is.