Few will get new free post office boxes

May 18, 1997


Staff Writer

When the postal service announced "no fee" post office boxes for people who don't have carrier delivery, people in small towns like Funkstown, Hedgesville, W.Va., and Mont Alto, Pa., smiled.

Finally, they thought, they would no longer have to pay for the privilege of picking up their mail at the post office. They would get free mail service, just like those people who have home delivery.

But like most things in life, the "no fee" box was too good to be true for most.

In fact, many post office box rents will increase by 50 percent. Starting June 8, people who pay $8 a year for a post office box will pay $12 a year, said Sheree Judge, spokeswoman for the Harrisburg, Pa., district of the U.S. Postal Service.


The free box only applies to those people who live more than a quarter mile away from the post office and who don't have any other access to delivery. The rents for those boxes vary around $2 a year, Judge said.

Under the rules, only a handful of people in the Tri-State area will actually get a free post office box.

They include some people who live in the following Maryland communities: Braddock Heights, Brownsville, Buckeystown, Chewsville, Funkstown, Ladiesburg, Libertytown, Lisbon, New Midway, St. James and Cavetown.

They also include some who live in Glengary, W.Va., Halltown, W.Va., and Millville, W.Va.

"We will be notifying people on a case-by-case basis," said Deborah Yackley, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service regional office in Columbia, Md.

"The ultimate goal is not so much to raise fees, but give everyone free delivery," Judge said.

So what about those whose box fees are increasing and also don't have home delivery?

According to postal officials, those people already have a free mail option. It's called general delivery.

But most people don't opt for general delivery because they might have to wait in line at the counter and they can only pick up mail during business hours.

"Here, there's not really not an advantage because you have to come here to get your mail anyway," said Mont Alto, Pa., Postmaster Irene Steinberger.

With a box, people can help themselves for the most part.

Instead of having a post office box number, people would have a "general delivery" address.

Bettie Reed, 52, of Mont Alto, Pa., said she will keep paying for a post office box even when the rent goes up.

"I'm not happy about that, but they just get you coming or going," said Reed, who is more concerned about her town's sewer rates.

Others said they wish they had home delivery.

"I figure if I pay that money then maybe they can afford to deliver the mail," said Kelly Vance, 28, of Funkstown.

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