When the NBC 5 Responds team first met the residents of a scenic new development called “The Retreat on Stony Creek” in suburban South Elgin in Dec. 2018, they said they were ecstatic with their homes, but were fit to be tied with the United States Postal Service.
Residents of the development said the post office was blocking their mail delivery to the point where it felt personal, holding mail without warning and denying them the ability to use the development’s correct street names and town name.
When they confronted the postal service, residents said the USPS had told them it would not be cost-efficient to re-route deliveries to their growing development, so they would have to use old street names, which no longer exist, and list neighboring Elgin as their town of residence, though they technically live in South Elgin.
Just days after the NBC 5 Responds team report aired in December, the residents say they got the news for which they'd been fighting for.
"Everyone was very excited," Rita Berger told NBC5. "Thank you very much to Lisa and NBC for airing our story. Once the story aired, 12 days later, things were resolved."
In a reversal of its earlier position, the USPS granted the residents’ request to use their current street names, and also said that they could use the proper village name of South Elgin on their mail.
A letter from USPS spelled it out:
“After a second review of the case file and the details of both the Central lllinois District and Great Lakes Area office decisions, it is the final determination of this office that a reasonable accommodation was not provided in the district's original decision denying your request.”
Prior to the reversal, residents and the Village of South Elgin say they appealed to USPS every way they knew how, including personal appeals and via the Village’s attorney. Their requests were all denied, they said, or ignored.
South Elgin Village Administrator Steve Super told us, "I have been working in local government for 30 years and I have never run across this kind of bureaucratic stalemate."
That’s when the neighbors asked NBC5 Responds to look into their complaint.
To understand the USPS decision, NBC5 Responds filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the documents involved and asked for an on-camera interview. Both requests were denied.
A USPS spokesperson first told NBC5 the agency thoroughly reviewed the residents' requests, and a change in its delivery routes would not be "cost-efficient."
"Many communities throughout the nation have mail delivered from a Post Office with a different name than their community. It is too costly to establish a new Post Office or create new ZIP Codes for community identity purposes. ZIP Codes and mailing addresses are intended to help us provide prompt and accurate mail service," USPS spokesman Tim Ratliffe told NBC5 in a statement.
He said the denial of their request was final. But shortly after our report aired, the agency changed its position, and granted the residents’ requests.
Thrilled with the news, area resident Rita Berger said she and her neighbors were overjoyed that their issues had been resolved.
“I do believe in the power of the press. Whoever thought of getting NBC 5 Responds involved? What a brilliant idea and thank you!," she said.