By Michael Gorman
Representatives from Canada Post are in Yarmouth County trying to determine if any rural mailboxes are unsafe.
During a meeting last week with council for the Municipality of Yarmouth, Tinna Bonner, spokesperson for rural delivery services, said they’ve reached the point where they must ensure mailboxes are safe for their drivers.
“There’s always a number of rural mailboxes that pose risk to our drivers,” she said, adding that there have been three deaths since 2005 caused, at least in part, by unsafe mailbox locations.
Bonner said the volume and speed of traffic on rural roads is increasing. Besides monitoring traffic, criteria for what constitutes a safe or unsafe mailbox also consider the size of the shoulder, sight lines and whether or not it’s safe for a driver to stop.
As it stands, rural mail delivery people have the right to refuse service to mailboxes they feel are unsafe.
The evaluation in Yarmouth County is focusing on 3,464 rural mailboxes along nine rural routes in Yarmouth, Hebron and Arcadia. Bonner said it has nothing to do with cost-cutting measures.
“It’s actually costing Canada Post millions of dollars to conduct this review,” she said. “Our primary objective is to retain rural mailbox delivery.”
If a mailbox fails the evaluation, customers could have the chance to relocate their boxes to a nearby location or, if relocation isn’t possible, they will be offered a community site in the area or a free post office box as long as one is available.
Although councillors understood why the process needs to happen, most expressed concerns about what the loss of a mailbox could mean for certain residents.
Councillor Heather MacDonald wondered what losing a mailbox might mean for seniors with limited or no mobility.
Bonner said before anything happens to a mailbox there is consultation between the residents and members of Canada Post. In the case of seniors they do whatever they can to find a solution.
“We try and work with the seniors as much as possible,” said Bonner, adding that there is a hardship case program to make arrangements for individuals who might have no other way to get their mail.
The preference is to avoid building new community mailboxes, said Bonner, due to the cost and maintenance issues. Deputy Warden Murray Goodwin was pleased to hear this news.
“I’m encouraged that you’re not out to get rid of rural mailboxes because you’d have a small war on your hands,” he said.
The evaluation process started towards the end of June. It’s expected everything would be complete — including issuing all approvals and dealing with any necessary moves — within 90 days.