Mailboxes and posts: Town not responsible for snow cast by plows

The highway department provided this photograph showing the type of mailbox and post that should be repaired or replaced.

When snow thrown from a town plow hits a mailbox, the replacement of the box or post is at the homeowner’s expense.

The town has a mailbox repair policy that specifically excludes from the town’s responsibility a mailbox or post that was damaged by the force of snow thrown by a town snowplow.

“All mailboxes should be securely fastened to a sturdy post which is sufficiently anchored in the ground to resist the impact of plowed snow,” the policy states.

Jeff Hanson, highway superintendent, said during the most recent snowstorm a few mailboxes did come down. “We looked at one, and the post was rotten in the ground,” he said. “They don’t last forever. A good hit with snow can knock them down.”

Last year, Mr. Hanson said, the town paid to replace only three mailboxes. The town’s policy does provide reimbursement if a mailbox or post “is physically struck” by a town snowplow. The town will reimburse $25 for the post and/or $25 for the mailbox. The cost of labor is not reimbursable and the reimbursement is the same, whether it’s a $25 or $300 mailbox.

Because the roads in Redding are narrow, snow thrown by a plow will hit mailboxes, said Mr. Hanson. “We push snow from the center of the road to the shoulder.”

There are “some pretty inventive mailboxes and different applications on installing them,” he said, pointing to swivels, counterweights and, in rare instances, just plywood on each side of the mailbox so it won’t be hit.

“We don’t try to knock down mailboxes,” Mr. Hanson said.

He advises checking the stability of a mailbox post by kicking the dirt around the bottom of the post. “You can see if a 4-by-4 post has an inch rotted away. If so, it’s time to replace the post or strengthen it,” he said, suggesting anchoring the post with small garden fence posts on each side and screwing them to the mailbox post.

Mailboxes and posts should be placed according to U.S. Postal Service specifications, said Mr. Hanson.

The town’s policy calls for consistency with Postal Regulation DMM508.

“Generally, the boxes should be installed with the bottom of the box at a vertical height of between 41 and 45 inches from the road surface,” according to the postal service.

The town’s policy says no part of a mailbox arm or post may be closer than nine inches from the face of the curb or edge of pavement to prevent contact by the snowplow. “No reimbursement will be made if this condition is not met,” the policy states.

When a plow hits a mailbox, the highway department or its designated representative “will promptly investigate all reports and will advise the resident or taxpayer of the decision to reimburse the cost of the mailbox and/or post.”

Snow pushed onto road

Besides mailbox concerns, Mr. Hanson reminds residents that state law prohibits any obstructions in the roadway, like snow thrown from a plow on a private driveway, or from a snowblower.

If there is an accident because of snow pushed back onto the road after it has been cleared by the highway department, it is the homeowner’s liability, said Mr. Hanson.

“The Police Department will knock on your door, and have you talk to your plow driver (if there is snow thrown onto the road),” said Mr. Hanson.

He added that if police call him to clean up an area on the road made hazardous by a property owner or his plow driver, he has to mobilize a crew if his crew has gone  home for the day. That means he must bring in, under union contract, a minimum of two employees for a minimum of four hours.

Mr. Hanson also reminded residents that state law requires that cars and trucks be cleared of snow before driving them on the roads.

To read the town’s mailbox repair policy, go to the town website at townofreddingct.org and click on Highway Department, then on Mailbox Policy.

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