FORT LAWRENCE – Two dozen Fort Lawrence residents have learned they will have to drive eight kilometres to pick up their mail after Nov. 2.
“Mailboxes in the area were reviewed two years ago. What we’ve been trying to do since then is find a location for a community mailbox. We’ve contacted landowners and looked at about 10 or 15 sites all we heard was no,” Canada Post spokeswoman Anick Losier said Wednesday. “The further we got from these customers , the closer we were getting to the post office in Amherst. When we got to 1.5 kilometres from the post office we felt it would be easier to bring the customers to the post office. On average it’s five to seven kilometres.”
Losier said 24 customers on the Fort Lawrence Road are impacted by the change and they have all been notified by mail that the last day of rural mail delivery will be Nov. 2.
In return, she said, customers will have a free mailbox at the Amherst post office, however, those affected will have to change their mailing address. The post office will provide residents with free change of address cards and will offer free redirection of mail for a year.
“It’s unfortunate, but we tried to find a closer site. We need to have permission to use a site and could not get that,” she said.
Losier said the post office was forced in 2008 to begin looking at the safety of rural mailboxes as a result of a health and safety complaint. She said the corporation understands the frustration of residents, but said the company is following federal legislation.
“It was becoming a safety issue for our employees, so with the assistance of an independent expert we developed the safety assessment,” she said. “We would much rather keep delivery the way it is, but it’s a legal requirement that we must satisfy.”
She said the assessments are happening across the country with about 80 per cent of 840,000 mailboxes having been completed to date. The evaluations in Amherst started in 2010.
She said a number of options have been looked at including moving mailboxes further from the road or grouping them with neighbours’. However, she said, in some cases other measures are necessary.
Area county councillor Gerald Read is not happy with what’s happening and has written Cumberland Colchester Musquodoboit Valley MP Scott Armstrong.
“This is absolutely wrong,” said Read, who also fought the erection of a community mailbox in Upper Nappan last year. “This is less about safety and more about financial reasons.”
He doesn’t feel the corporation worked hard enough to find an alternative and called the move “autocratic and lacking compassion.”
Edith Helm, one of Read’s opponents in Saturday’s election, said a number of her neighbours are affected.
“There are a lot seniors here who don’t have the ability to drive to Amherst,” Helm said. “It’s going to create a lot of difficulty for a lot of people and it’s going to cause a lot of hardship. It’s just not fair.”
Losier said the corporation could offer service to those who are disabled or face other hardships. She said those who may be eligible can call the post office.