Thursday, September 11, 2008
Dangerous mailboxes hinder projects
By SUE WATSON
Counties are being put on notice they will not be eligible for federal highway funds to improve roads if dangerous mailboxes are not removed, said Larry Britt, Marshall County engineer.
Britt said federal engineers who rode the county with him, the sheriff and the county administrator several weeks ago are impressed with a proposed HRRR project that would provide money to make county roads that are at high risk for accidents - one being Cayce Road - safer.
“They are impressed with Marshall County and looked at Cayce Road, the next on the list for improvements from Highway 72 to Highway 78,” Britt said. “The intersection at Cayce Road and Wingo Road will be re-overlayed if we get everything ready. It looks like we will get $500,000 to do the project.
“Meanwhile, concrete and brick mailboxes are a problem. Part of the stipulations for getting federal money is to have those removed.”
Britt provided a set of federal guidelines for the board of supervisors to study last week and several ways to remedy the problem of dangerous mailboxes were discussed by the board.
The federal rule basically states that government funds will not be allocated to rural roads unless mailboxes considered dangerous to motorists if struck, be replaced with breakoff type supports.
Mailbox supports made of metal junk such as old wagon wheels, old plows, or of concrete or brick - of any material that would be considered an obstruction where motorists can get hurt, must go, Britt said.
Regulations require that these type mailbox supports be removed within 24 hours to 30 days after the postal patron has been notified, Britt said.
“The county has the authority to take it down, if they refuse to take it down after notification,” he said.
“We could lose that money because they are not in compliance,” said supervisor Keith Taylor, who added that brick mailbox supports are often put up when a new brick house is built, particularly in subdivisions.
He suggested that ordinances could be put in place to add inspections of mailbox supports before new structures are certified for occupancy.
“We need to not let them open a new house until they take them down, or we can stop them from moving in,” he said. “It’s been a problem for a long time and if someone gets hurt, the county could be liable.”
“They’ve got to be removed,” said Britt. “In many cases the homeowner cannot put a 10-foot recess from the road or their box will be in the ditch.
“Supports made of steel, rails, cross-ties, fire plugs are a danger as well,” he said, “any structure that won’t break away.”
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett concurred, saying the county is written up by State-Aid inspectors every time they come through. In the Higdon Road area in District 5, he has already warned four or five residents to remove dangerous supports but none have complied, he said.
Britt asked board attorney Kent Smith to run a notice in the paper or to notify individuals by letter.
“It is a clean-up order,” he said.
Taylor wanted to enforce with a notification to the resident. Bennett wanted to charge the violators if a county crew has to go out and take a mailbox down.
Supervisor George Zinn III wanted to include the rules in the county’s zoning regulations by an ordinance.
“You can have a brick mailbox, but this is to meet regulations,” Britt clarified.
He said safe mailbox supports made of brick can be constructed using federal guidelines detailing the method and materials of construction.
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