In June, the United States Post Office stopped delivering mail to the Bethel Midtown Village apartments after a U.S. postal service driver heard gunshots while in the area. The cancellation left many of the complex’s residents, the majority being low-income and African-American, without direct access to their bills, notices and other important mail, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.
In response, the complex’s management — H.J. Russell and Company — attempted to retrieve and distribute residents' mail as a short term solution. However, the venture was unsuccessful as assuming responsibility for gathering and distributing the mail for 190 apartments proved too time-consuming, the ABH reported.
To retrieve their mail, residents had to travel to the Athens post office on Olympic Drive, approximately two and a half miles away. However, Athens-Clarke County Public Transit System does not provide service to the Post Office on Olympia Drive, leaving senior citizens without reliable access to their mail.
Additionally, the local government and ACCPD worked with the post office to increase USPS drivers’ safety and created a temporary solution to the problem. However, government officials such as Police Chief Cleveland Spruill and District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson raised the fact that the crime rate had decreased in the area despite having three shootings since 2019.
The Current Situation
The Post Office resumed service on July 11. As a temporary solution, ACCPD has and will dispatch a police escort to accompany the mailmen and women on their deliveries to Bethel Homes until the government, police and the post office can create a permanent solution
“The ACCPD appreciates the long-standing relationship we have with the USPS, and we appreciate their decision to temporarily continue mail service to the community,” Spruill said in a department news release. “We look forward to our future meeting to discuss long-term mail delivery.”
According to Denson, the Mayor and Commission are holding a meeting later this week to discuss potential, permanent solutions. One such solution is moving the apartment complex’s mailboxes outside of its gate.
“In my opinion, I don’t feel like it should’ve come to this,” Denson said. “If there was a problem of this magnitude that required service to be cut for residents at Bethel Homes, we should’ve had the conversations we are having now in order to move forward.”
However, citing the post office’s cooperation, Denson stated that all of the concerned parties are focused on making sure everyone’s needs are met.
“We’re going to make sure people are getting their mail that they deserve — that they have a right to — but where also the people delivering their mail feel safe and feel like they can do their jobs in a comfortable, welcomed manner,” Denson said.