Dozens of county residents face fixing their mailboxes or buying new ones after snow pushed off the roads by plow trucks knocked them down last week.
More than 40 residents called the Johnson County Highway Department by Friday to say snowplows had knocked their mailboxes over. But more commonly, the snow pushed by the plows was the culprit, director Luke Mastin said.
“The snow was wet, so it was very heavy. A lot of boxes that came down were because the snow hit them coming off the blade. That’s not something we have a lot of control over,” he said.
County employees are visiting residents’ homes to see if a plow or the snow was responsible for each case reported, Mastin said. If a snowplow hit a mailbox, the county will pay to repair it; but if snow pushed a mailbox over, homeowners have to fix it or buy a new one themselves.
Number of calls by Friday
Johnson County: 41
Franklin: Snowplow drivers are asked to report any mailboxes they hit or if they see snow push over a mailbox. The city will pay for repairs if the plows were responsible or offer to pay half if snow caused the damage. Call 736-3660 if your mailbox was hit by a plow or snow.
Greenwood: Plow drivers are asked to write down addresses of mailboxes they hit, and street department employees will fix them. If snow knocks down a mailbox, city officials say the department is not responsible for repairing it. Call 887-5607 if your mailbox was hit by a plow or snow.
Johnson County: Residents are asked to fill out a claims form from the highway department and send photos of the damage. Highway department employees will then review the claim and determine if a plow hit the mailbox or if snow pushed it over. If a plow hit the mailbox, the county will pay for repairs. Call 346-4630 to receive a claims form.
Greenwood officials say the city also does not fix or pay for a new mailbox if one is knocked over by the snow, but Franklin usually will offer to pay for half of the repair costs in that instance.
“We try to keep that from happening, but when you have heavy snow it’s unavoidable,” Mastin said. “In that situation, where a mailbox has been knocked off its post by snow, since that’s something that’s out of our control, it’s up to the property owner.”
Last week, between 7 and 11 inches of snow fell on the county by early Wednesday, and county snowplow drivers spent all of Thursday and Friday clearing neighborhood streets.
While the county got dozens of calls about downed mailboxes, Greenwood had received only two calls about damaged mailboxes, and Franklin had received three by Friday afternoon.
Usually, when snow pushes over a mailbox, it can be easily repaired, Mastin said. The snow will knock the mailbox off its post, and the box can be screwed back on. But if a plow hits a mailbox, the post will break or the mailbox will shatter, and the county has to buy a new one for the resident, he said. A new mailbox costs about $15.
In either instance, residents should fill out a claims form from the county highway department and send photos of the damage, Mastin said. County employees will look over the photos and visit the homes to determine if snow or a plow knocked the mailbox over.
In both Franklin and Greenwood, the cities have a policy that snowplow drivers call the department when they either knock a mailbox over or see snow push one down. That way, the department will know immediately what happened; and if the city is at fault, workers will fix the mailbox or the city will pay for a new one.
Last week, two Franklin snowplow drivers reported hitting mailboxes, and a resident called to say snow had knocked one down, Franklin Street Commissioner Ron Collins.
Collins said the city usually pays for a new mailbox when a snowplow hits it, and he will offer to pay for half the repair cost if snow causes the damage. He said the city sometimes will agree to pay for a new mailbox if a resident calls and argues the case.
“We’re replacing one mailbox or two mailboxes. It buys goodwill in the community. I’m not going to argue over a $12 or $15 mailbox,” Collins said.
In Greenwood, the street department received two calls by Friday about mailboxes being knocked over, and supervisor Kenny Duncan said he was unsure if plows or snow were the cause.
Greenwood residents can call the department if they believe a snowplow hit their mailbox and have a city employee look at the damage. But city employees can’t always tell. At one home last week, Duncan said, he could not tell if snow or a plow caused a mailbox to break, so he fixed the mailbox anyway.
“I just went ahead and put it back up. It only took a couple screws, and it was done,” he said. “In this case, the snow was piled up, so I couldn’t say one way or the other on this one. If it would have required a $200 post, I would argue the thing.”