Not a good mix: Mailboxes, plow trucks

NW dd8 PHOTO plow trucks and mailboxes

This mailbox, which is covered with snow, is set back from the road and near the utility pole. However, it is still in the public right-of-way, which means legally the owner, not the town, would be responsible if it were damaged by a plow truck. (De Busk Photo)

 

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — If mailboxes threw a party, they would not invite a plow truck.

If a plow truck did come to the party anyways, all the mailboxes would clear the floor as soon as the plow truck started dancing.

As is evident during extremely snowy winters, a mailbox doesn’t fare well in a close encounter with a plow truck.

The catch-22 is that mailboxes need to be close enough to the road for postal drivers to have access to them. That proximity to the road puts the mailbox in the path of the wing plow on most snow removal trucks.

However, with mailboxes costing between $20 and $100, according to the prices posted on Lowe’s Home Improvement, it is not a party for anyone to replace one.

Recently, a Casco resident expressed his dismay that his mailbox had been destroyed by a plow truck.

Mike London brought his grievance to the Casco Board of Selectman earlier this winter.

London said the plow crew had torn down his mailbox, which he said was located a few hundred feet back from the road.

He said he resides on Tenney Hill Road.

He said he called the offices of the town’s contractor for wintertime road maintenance. That is R.N. Willey and Sons Excavation.

“If I would have gotten a ‘sorry,’ I wouldn’t bother,” he told the board.

According to Town Manager Dave Morton “the contractor is responsible no matter who is doing the plowing.”

“If the mailbox is in the road right-of-way, we are not responsible,” he said.

The right-of-way (ROW) typically extends from the edge of the pavement to the utility poles. Therefore, anything located on the other side of the utility poles is out of the right-of-way.

Morton reported later to the selectmen, saying he did a site walk where London’s mailbox is located.

“It was so close to the paved surface that if a car was coming from an opposite direction as the plow, there wasn’t enough room to pass without coming in contact with the mailbox,” Morton said.

“That mailbox was so close it could not be missed by an oncoming truck if the plow was on the road,” he said.

In the ROW, fencing, shrubbery, and trees can be removed by the town — if they cause a hazard.

“Most mailboxes have to go in the road rights-of-way because people cannot or won’t shovel far enough for postal trucks to get to them,” he said.

The snowplow operators do what they can to avoid swiping any mailbox, which is often a difficult task with the wing plow located on the passenger’s side of the rig, he said.

“If you look at the box that was complained about at the last meeting, it’s a wonder that it doesn’t get hit every time,” Morton said.

Selectman Tracy Kimball said there was no happy medium.

“We don’t require people to put mailboxes outside of the right-of-way. Almost every mailbox is there so that the mail vehicle can get to them,” Kimball said.

Morton said the people who drive for the contractor are very conscientious about residents’ mailboxes.

“The drivers really go out of their way to avoid them,” Morton said.

 

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