Thursday, January 29, 2009
Board rehashes problem mailboxes
By BARRY BURLESON
County supervisors watched a video last week about dangerous mailboxes, and next they plan to make it part of a public hearing on the problem.
The Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation video exemplified how obstructive mailboxes, those located too close to the shoulder inside a clear zone, “are not just for sending and receiving mail but they represent something else to motorists - danger.”
County engineer Larry Britt said, “It’s not just the brick ones, but any that might be a hazard near the road.”
The concern is threefold, according to county attorney Kent Smith, drivers’ safety, liability and a possible loss of state and federal funding.
“We need a priority plan,” he said, “focusing first on state-aid and federal-aid roads, and then look at county roads after all others are satisfied.”
Atop the priority list is Cayce Road, scheduled for improvements from Highway 72 to Highway 78, as part of a High Risk Rural Roads (HRRR) federal project.
Britt said the county is in the process of developing a list of those dangerous mailboxes on Cayce Road that must be removed. Notices will then be mailed to those residents.
Supervisor Keith Taylor said he had received at least 20 phone calls when the first story about dangerous mailboxes was first printed in the newspaper on September 11 of last year.
“We’re being told to do this,” Taylor said. “It’s a mandate.”
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.
“Mailboxes don’t have to be killers,” the video stated.
Supervisors said extra money should be made available to assist counties and their residents in fixing the mailbox problems.
“Some people may have had a brick mailbox there for 20 years,” Taylor said. “Funds should be put in place to help out.”
Supervisor George Zinn, who suggested amending zoning ordinances to cover mailboxes, said, “It’s not a decision that’s ours.
Britt said, as of now, there’s nobody to pay for it, other than the owner or the county. He said there are no state or federal funds available.
“They constantly send you stuff to comply with, but no money,” Britt said.
He said Texas and some other states have come up with designs that are acceptable.
Taylor suggested a public hearing for the citizens to “come and watch” the video. The tentative date is Monday, Feb. 9, following the regular meeting of the board of supervisors. The board meeting starts at 9 a.m. Afterwards, the public hearing would be in the new courtroom adjacent to the board room on South Market Street.
Britt summarized again, saying it’s about safety and funding.
“No one in this group wants to see someone hurt because of a mailbox,” he said. “And we’re talking about a significant amount of money you could lose if you don’t comply. It’s not an easy problem, but you don’t have much choice here.”
In other business January 20, the board:
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