So your mailbox was taken out by a snow plow. What now?

  • Bob Trump talks about his mailbox, which got cut in half in the last two snowstorms, at his home on Florence Road. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Trump holds the top half of his mail Box that got cut in half in the last two snow storms at his home on Florence Rd. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The bottom half of Bob Trump's mailbox, which got cut in half in the last two snow storms at his home on Florence Road. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A mail box damaged by plow trucks on 89 Florence Rd. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A mail box damaged by plow trucks on 89 Florence Rd. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A mailbox at Denis Daly’s house at 137 Florence Road was damaged by plow trucks during the latest snowstorm. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A mail box damaged by plow trucks on 7 Florence Rd. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

@mjmajchrowicz
Published: 3/23/2017 10:31:24 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Many of the mailboxes that line Florence Road are shells of their former selves.

Some are tethered to their posts by bungee cords. Some are held in place with near entire rolls of gorilla tape. Others have been reduced to jagged plastic totems — the latest casualties of the snowplows that residents on this street have come to both revere and resent.

What exactly is one to do when a mailbox falls prey to the city’s snow-removal efforts?

The city used to dole out $50 checks, but that changed in 2006 when officials decided they were shelling out too much money on the claims alone.

In response, Northampton adopted a measure allowing residents to file claims with the city clerk’s office and be compensated with a voucher (instead of cash) worth up to $50, redeemable at Florence Hardware and Foster Farrar, where necessary mailbox components could be purchased. Residents were permitted to file only one claim per season, and no, the city would not fix or install the mailbox, according to the policy.

The policy leaves little wiggle room.

“No reimbursement in excess of $50.00 shall be provided, regardless of the location, size, original cost or elaborateness of the mailbox and post,” it reads.

The claim must be filed within 30 days of the alleged damage and is then authorized (or not) by the city. Northampton Public Works then processes the claims, said Richard Parasiliti Jr., superintendent of the highway division. The vouchers expire May 31 of the year they were assessed.

“Mailboxes aren’t designed to take hits from the side — in fact, they’re not designed to take any of that,” Parasiliti said. “They’re meant to take mail.”

When public works employees end up taking down or damaging a mailbox during snow removal, Parasiliti said, they’re required to make note of it with the department.

“It’s hard for those guys to be able to push the snow and not damage a mailbox,” City Clerk Wendy Mazza said. “If the snow’s heavy, it’s gotta go somewhere. I’m sure they’re not out there trying to take out a mailbox. I think it’s the nature of the beast.”

Parasiliti also said he encourages drivers to weave in and out the best they can and do their best to avoid the mailboxes.

“It’s aggravating, I’m sure, to people when the snow hits the mailbox. There’s no other way to go about that that I’m aware of in terms of getting snow off the roadway,” Parasiliti said. “They become victims to the snow-removal process.”

The problem is not as avoidable as one might think, he said, considering the mailboxes can only be so far from the curb, in accordance with U.S. Postal Service guidelines.

The claims

The Gazette reviewed each of the 35 claims filed this winter, some of which read more like epics:

“It was a cold and snowy day on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. Snow falling at a rate of 2 inches per hour. The governor told everyone to stay home and most of us did. It was the biggest snow storm of the season. I’ll never forget it, because that was the day the snowplow took down my mailbox,” wrote Denis J. Daly, 65, who lives on Florence Road.

It has happened more than once, he said in an interview.

“I did my best to save it and using bungee cords, I attached it to the wooden post where it has always been,” the letter continued. “It seemed like it was going to be OK, when, alas, tragedy struck again.”

Daly said although he’s yet to reinstall a new mailbox, he doesn’t blame the city for the loss.

“I don’t blame the city, and I live on Florence Road which is the main road here,” Daly said. “Three plows usually come up and down where I live. I hold nothing against the city.”

In another claim, Cynthia Zitler, who lives on Burts Pit Road, described her mailbox as having been “decapitated.”

“Didn’t file a claim last time I lost a mailbox, but I really like this one,” she wrote.

Robert E. Trump, another Florence Road resident, said at his home Thursday that he received a phone call from a neighbor while out of town alerting him to the mauled mailbox.

“The heavy snow spray from a city plow on Florence Road nearly broke my rural mailbox entirely,” Trump wrote in his Jan. 4 claim to the city. “As I was not home, my neighbor attempted to repair it with gorilla tape, at best a temporary fix … another plow finally finished off the box!”

Now, a jagged plastic base stands where his mailbox used to be.

Trump keeps the mailbox itself stored on the porch in his backyard.

“It seems foolish to waste this box,” he said hoisting it up from the ground.

He’s not yet sure what he’s going to do with the detached mailbox. Maybe, he quipped, it’ll become a wall decoration.

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at mmajchrowicz@gazettenet.com.




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