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Residents win fight to get mail despite construction

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OREM — Ever since Orem took down the street lights and ripped out the asphalt in front of Leah Johnson's house on Center Street, she's had a problem with her mail. She hasn't been receiving it.

When Johnson was told construction on the road, which is being repaved and widened to five lanes between 400 and 800 East, made it too dangerous for the mail carrier to walk her route, Johnson was furious.

"Is it any more hazardous for me to walk across the street where the road is dug up than it would be for her?" she said. "I'm old enough to be her grandmother."

Johnson, 78, did not want to stand in line at the post office for 15 minutes a day to pick up her mail until Center Street construction was finished in September.

So she wrote a letter to the local newspaper and called the office of Rep. Chris Cannon and the U.S. Postmaster General.

Thursday, Johnson will get what she wanted — mail delivered to her doorstep.

Johnson was one of approximately 30 Center Street residents who did not receive mail at their home for about two weeks because of construction.

Center Street is closed from 400 to 800 East, and the postal service decided the road, which has been reduced to gravel, was too dangerous for the mail carrier.

"In our initial assessment we erred on the side of caution for the carrier. We didn't want her to slip and fall," said Thelxi Hauenstein, U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman.

On Wednesday, Postal Service District Manager Steven Johnson walked the route and decided it was safe. The mail carrier will park her vehicle on a side street and walk the route to deliver mail, Hauenstein said.

Delivery may be slower, she said, and on days of heavy construction delivery may not be possible.

"We really apologize for the inconvenience, and we will make every attempt to deliver mail to these customers," Hauenstein said. "We ask that our customers have patience."

Mail carriers do not simply walk up and down the street, she said. They carry a 25 pound pouch full of letters and magazines and must sort the mail as they walk. Between 40 percent and 50 percent of the sidewalks in the construction area are not passable, Hauenstein said.

The postal service's decision Wednesday was good news for Lynn Bellows, 572 E. Center, who receives prescription medication in the mail.

Like Johnson, Bellows, 76, had to drive down to the post office to pick up his mail.

About seven residents put up temporary mailboxes on the property of Kyle Beardhall, 761 E. Center, instead of picking up mail at the post office. Hauenstein said these boxes will no longer be needed.

Many residents said they could not understand why the Postal Service could not navigate the route, while construction did not impact services by Federal Express, United Parcel Service and three newspaper companies.

E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com