Mailboxes toppled? Here's what to do

Mailboxes toppled? Here's what to do

SMITHFIELD - Did a town vehicle plow up more than snow in front of your house this winter? If your mailbox was a casualty you have a few avenues for relief, both with the Public Works Department and the U.S. Postal Service.

The issue arose recently when Town Councilwoman Maxine Cavanagh went out to retrieve her mail and found that her plastic curbside mailbox had vanished.

Cavanagh said that when she went to the Esmond Post Office to inquire about mail pickup in such circumstances, she was told by two employees that she could pick up mail there only once a week and that if the mailbox was not replaced within 30 days all her mail would be returned to the senders.

Cavanagh said she found the pronouncements draconian, even though in her case the damage was minimal because the detachable mailbox was gone but the post was intact.

Still, she wondered how town residents could replace toppled mailbox posts in mid-winter with snowbanks covering frozen ground.

Her own mystery was solved a few days later, when, after she reported the incident, a DPW crew discovered her mailbox in a gully opposite her house and re-attached it to the post.

She said she did not identify herself as an officeholder because she wanted only the treatment that would be afforded any other town resident.

Asked about Postal Service policy by The Valley Breeze & Observer, regional spokesperson Christine Dugas said the information Cavanagh received at the Esmond facility does not reflect actual practice there and that local post offices have authority to be flexible.

While once-a-week pickup and a 30-day replacement policy are "encouraged," she said, post office managers will work with residents on a case-by-case basis, especially where the elderly or infirm are involved.

Dugas said the post office also allows the use of temporary mailboxes, with posts supported in cement- or sand-filled buckets.

She said anyone dissatisfied with local post office responses can call customer service at 800-275-8777.

Seth Lemoine, Smithfield's Public Works director, said residents can get help with plow-related mailbox damage in two ways: If they do the repairs themselves and can produce a materials receipt, they are eligible for reimbursement of up to $25, or, the DPW itself will replace the box with a standard model once it's determined that plowing caused the damage.

In winter, he said, the DPW will often provide a temporary mailbox until permanent repairs are made.

Lemoine said that after a typical significant snowstorm his department gets about a dozen requests for reimbursement.

He said damage usually occurs when mailboxes are toppled by the snow pushed by plows.

DPW personnel were rewarded for their work on Cavanagh's mailbox when she subsequently hand-delivered them a hot, home-baked coffee cake.