Is it an apartment? Or is it a dorm?
That seems to be the main point of contention in a mail delivery disagreement that has left the residents of the Breckenridge Apartment complex without mail service since Feb. 7.
The problem began when the postal service informed Breckenridge, located on Skipper Road near the USF golf course, that its classification would be changed to “single point delivery.” Postal spokesman Gary Sawtelle said single point means that Breckenridge is considered to be a dormitory-style establishment.
Sawtelle said the reason for the classification is Breckenridge’s leasing style. Each resident is individually leased. Residents have their own bedroom and bathroom, and share a common kitchen and living room area with roommates.
Sawtelle said during the period that Breckenridge was considered by the postal service as apartment-style, mail was sorted for individual apartments by a postal employee. Once an apartment is considered single point, Sawtelle said mail is delivered in bulk, and it is the complex’s responsibility to sort it.
Sawtelle said the decision to re-classify Breckenridge was made a year ago, and was done, in part, to save the postal service money.
“One of the things we’re guided by in the postal service is efficiency and economical delivery,” Sawtelle said. “This is very standard for dormitory-style delivery around Tampa and around the state.”
But Breckenridge does not agree. Sawtelle said postal employees have attempted to deliver mail to the complex, and employees have refused to accept delivery.
Lisa Shea, manager for Breckenridge, said she doesn’t consider the complex a dorm and has chosen to refuse delivery.
“We’re basically fighting it because we’ve been here five years, and we’ve never had to do it before,” Shea said.
Sawtelle said the reason Breckenridge was not classified as single point until now was because the postal service did not realize leasing was done by the room.
Shea said postal officials showed her the copy of the rules that apply to the new designation. She reviewed it and said Breckenridge does not fit the criteria.
Shea said if Breckenridge were forced to sort residents’ mail, service would be delayed by about 3 hours each day. She said the complex would probably hire an outside sorter, costing an estimated $13,000 a year. That cost, she said, would be passed on to residents.
“Someone would have to pay for it,” Shea said.
Also, Shea said, she is worried about liability. She said if Breckenridge handles mail sorting and a resident does not receive an important letter, the responsibility falls on the complex, not the postal service.
As of right now, residents are forced to go to a postal annex located on Florida Avenue to pick up their mail. Shea said residents seem to be behind Breckenridge.
“Most of the residents are in support of us,” Shea said. “Some of them are annoyed because they are inconvenienced, but for the majority of them, they understand where Breckenridge is coming from.”
However, the current arrangement may not be available for much longer. Sawtelle said the postal service will not attempt to deliver indefinitely.
“We’re in the job of delivering the mail,” Sawtelle said. “We’re not in the business of storing mail.”
Sawtelle said the postal service will give Breckenridge a period of 30 days to accept mail. After that, he said, letters will be returned to sender.
Sawtelle said, however, the clock has not been started on Breckenridge. The reason, he said, was that Breckenridge changed ownership Tuesday, and the postal service wanted to see if the new owner would give up the confrontation.
“Until we hear the new owners are going to refuse, we’re not starting the clock,” Sawtelle said.
Shea said the new owner is in support of the management.
The debate, however, might not come down to a 30-day standoff. Shea said late Tuesday that Sawtelle had contacted her and a meeting time was set. She said the two will meet today at 1 p.m. today to discuss the issue.