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At the Island Club, newspaper home delivery not what it used to be

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of July 22, 2021)

For the past couple of months, home delivery of the Press Journal hasn’t been what it used to be for residents of the Island Club Riverside.

If they want a daily newspaper, residents have to walk or drive to the community’s gates each morning to fish it out of a pile of papers that have been dumped there.

“We have a lot of unhappy people,” said Keith Thompson, president of the Island Club Homeowners Association. “Some are canceling their subscriptions because they can’t get their newspapers delivered to their homes. The drivers just drop the papers outside the gate.”

It’s been this way for nearly two months, since the HOA stopped allowing drivers for the Press Journal’s home-delivery vendor to enter the community.

The reason?

On Dec. 19, one of the drivers for the vendor that Gannett uses to deliver its papers, Karen Runnels, apparently dozed while entering the Island Club Riverside community shortly after 4 a.m. and crashed her minivan into a concrete sign at the gate, destroying the structure and damaging the surrounding landscape.

According to the Sheriff’s Office’s accident report, Runnel said “she was tired and believes that she fell asleep,” and that “her eyes closed and she felt an impact.”

Thompson, who estimated the community’s property damage at $18,000, said the HOA filed a claim with the driver’s insurance company, only to learn that she wasn’t insured for commercial use of her vehicle.

The HOA then sought to recover the costs of replacing the sign and repairing the landscape from the Gannett-owned Treasure Coast Newspapers, which Thompson said ignored his efforts for weeks – until the HOA’s attorney began pursuing the matter.

“The attorney for the newspaper company has contacted our attorney,” Thompson said last week, “so maybe the ball is starting to roll.”

Thompson said the HOA has two demands: reimbursement for the damage done by Runnels, and proof from the vendor that its delivery drivers who enter the community are insured for commercial use of their vehicles.

Until the vendor provides proof of insurance, he said, the HOA will not allow its drivers to pass through the community’s gates.

“I don’t understand what the difficulty is,” Thompson said. “I can see why they might resist the reimbursement, but why can’t they make sure their drivers are properly insured?”

Island Club resident Peggy Lockwood said she wrote Press Journal Editor Adam Neal, who passed along her complaint to delivery manager Jeffrey Haight, who told her the drivers leave the papers outside the gate “because they can’t get through.”

Haight responded to an email from Vero Beach 32963 last week, writing that he was instructed to forward any request for comment to area circulation manager Kathy Wise and Gannett Senior Distribution Director John Vizzini.

As of Monday afternoon, neither Wise nor Vizzini had responded.

The Gannett vendor also delivers copies of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other out-of-town papers as well, so Island Club subscribers to those papers haven’t been getting them either.

“For weeks now, all the newspapers for subscribing residents of Island Club are being dumped in a huge pile at the front gate,” Lockwood said. “Residents need to scramble to find their paper in the pile unless some neighbor is kind enough to collect all of them and deliver them to people in the community.

“People are getting angrier and angrier,” she added. “Some are upset with the HOA board because they can’t get their newspapers delivered to their homes, and some are mad at the Press Journal’s refusal to do anything.

“It’s a frustrating, chaotic situation,” she said.

In the meantime, the Island Club’s HOA isn’t waiting for reimbursement to repair the damage.

“We’re getting the sign fixed,” Thompson said. “We can’t just leave it the way it is. It’s an eyesore.”