WINCHESTER (CBS) – At 81 years old, Harry Rothmann still navigates the front steps to his house with ease.
So that is why the Winchester resident was surprised when he recently opened a letter from the United States Postal Service.
The letter informed Rothmann that his mailbox would need to be moved out toward the street or handrails would need to be installed on the stairs.
“We believe it to be unsafe,” read the letter sent by the Woburn postmaster. “Effective immediately, we will not deliver mail to your house until the mailbox is moved or until proper secured railing are put in place.”
Rothmann said the ultimatum arrived without warning.
“My initial reaction was quite negative and I let the person in the post office know that,” he told WBZ-TV. “I couldn’t understand after 50 years, why they wouldn’t be able to deliver mail to my house.”
A USPS spokesman said Rothmann was one of about 40 Winchester homeowners to get the recent letter.
Around town, there was evidence of people who had taken temporary measures to make sure their mail service continues uninterrupted while they mull installing handrails.
At one house, the owner had placed a basket near the bottom of the steps. At another, a mailbox was attached to a two-by-four board. Other residents told WBZ they had asked carriers to deliver mail at side doors.
According to the letter, federal safety guidelines require a handrail if there are at least four steps or if they rise more than 30 inches.
Mike Powers, district manager of the Greater Boston Postal District, said the initiative originated after a serious injury to a mail carrier in Winchester.
USPS employees in that town were asked to identify potential hazards around town and report them to supervisors. After supervisors reviewed the locations, the letter went out to homeowners.
However, Powers admits the communication could have been better, and assured homeowners they will continue receiving their mail.
“We will address each issue case by case,” he said. “We look forward to working with people to make sure we meet their mail services at the highest possible level while at the same time safeguarding our people.”
Rothmann is now considering whether he will pay the price of reconfiguring his entire front walkway, or if he will opt for the cheaper option of installing handrails. For the time being, he has worked out a compromise with his carrier.
But after getting his mail in the rain, sleet and snow for decades at his Winchester home, Rothmann said the delivery of the letter fell flat.
“It left a little to be desired. That’s all I can say!” Rothmann told WBZ with a laugh.