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Two mailboxes on Route 138 in Richmond near house 309 were seen knocked askew on Tuesday morning. The timing of the event was confirmed but there were tire marks in the snow near the mailboxes. ( Jill Connor / The Westerly Sun )

Mailbox damaged by snowplowing? You can probably get help


WESTERLY — Add roadside mailboxes to the long list of collateral damage accompanying this snowy winter. Compensation is available for homeowners whose mailboxes have been damaged or destroyed by snowplows, but policies differ between the neighboring states, and from town to town.

People who live on state roads should report mailbox damage directly to their state. Rose Amoros of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation said that the state will either issue a cash reimbursement or a new box.

Amoros said that residents reporting a mailbox damaged by snowplowing along a state road should contact the department’s claims coordinator, Arlene Nelson at 401-734-4842. The department will either issue a replacement mailbox or offer a reimbursement, to a maximum of $50, to repair or replace the box.

In Connecticut, Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick said winter mailbox damage was as predictable as potholes.

Nursick noted that the damage was almost always caused by the force of the snow pushed to the roadside, rather than by the plow blade itself. The state replaces mailboxes damaged by road clearing operations.

“We will actually go out there and replace it for them with one of our stock mailboxes,” he said.

While Nursick could not say how many requests for replacement mailboxes the state had received this year, he noted that the complaints, surprisingly, were down compared to previous winters.

“Believe it or not, this winter season I would say we have had fewer requests for replacing mailboxes. I would say significantly fewer. And I think that might have to do with the types of storms we’ve been getting,” he said. “Up until the last storm or two that we’ve had, they’ve been just a lot of nuisance storms, smaller accumulation events, very cold weather storms, so very light, fluffy snow that doesn’t tend to do any harm when it comes off of the plow blade.”

People wishing to report mailbox damage can go to the state website at: ct.gov/dot, click on “contact us” and fill out an electronic form. The department’s telephone number is: 860-594-2000.

If the damage is caused by a town snowplow, residents must contact their towns directly.

In Westerly, the Department of Public Works had received only seven complaints of damaged mailboxes before the latest storm.

“Eight were reported last winter,” said John Moretta, assistant town manager. Residents can call the public works department at 401-348-2538 and the town will send a crew out to inspect, repair or replace the mailbox.

Charlestown Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz said that like Westerly, his town will send a crew from the public works department to assess the damage.

“If it’s hit by a plow truck, we have DPW go out and have a look at it and we make some restitution,” he said. “If our plow hit and damaged their mailbox, we take care of it.”

In Hopkinton, the Department of Public Works will assess the damage and repair or replace damaged mailboxes only if they were damaged by direct contact with the snowplow.

The town’s policy, available on its website under “Department of Public Works,” states that it will not be responsible for damage caused by snow hitting the mailbox.

“When a mailbox or post is damaged by indirect contact from town snow removal equipment, the Town shall NOT be responsible for mailbox damage,” the policy reads. “Indirect contact occurs when snow is discharged from snow removal equipment.”

DPW Director Tim Tefft said the town had received very few complaints this winter. “It’s been very slow, actually,” he said. Hopkinton residents can report damage by calling the Town Hall at 401-377-7777 or the DPW at 401-377-7790.

Richmond Town Administrator Robert Rock said the town would replace mailboxes damaged by its snowplows.

“If a call comes in to the Town Hall or DPW, they’ll go out and assess the situation, and if it was them that hit it, they’ll replace it,” he said. Residents can report damage to the Town Hall at 401-539-9000 or the DPW at 401-539-8474.

Several town officials cautioned that the placement and condition of mailboxes were factors in determining how they would withstand the winter.

“The majority of mailbox and post damage results from improper installation and/or poor maintenance. A properly installed and maintained mailbox should withstand winter snow removal operations,” the Hopkinton policy reads.

Stankiewicz of Charlestown pointed out that there is no standard for mailbox placement or construction.

“There is no permit or code, so it’s difficult to determine quality,” he said.

cdrummond@thewesterlysun.com



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