Communal mail boxes under fire

Locals say they’re an unsafe cost-cutting measure

Eric Sparling esparling@amherstdaily.com
Published on July 26, 2012
Doug Bacon stands near a new Canada Post community mail box in Upper Nappan.
Eric Sparling – Amherst Daily News

AMHERST – The locals will tell you it’s an unsafe spot.

A communal mailbox on Highway 2, just south of where Smith Road connects to the thoroughfare, is meeting with resistance from some local residents.

“How many seniors are going to be put in danger?” asked Doug Bacon, a farmer whose property has been impacted by the installation of the mailbox.

Bacon, and his neighbour Ben Griffin, claimed Canada Post’s stated reason for the move toward communal boxes was safety – that owners of private boxes which endanger postal workers would have to move to communal boxes.

That reason doesn’t wash with either man. Bacon has a broad, paved parking area in front of the private mailbox at his property. And he thinks forcing seniors, and other residents, to travel to a communal box creates risk.

“Two of them are unsafe,” said Bacon. “They’re not safe – they’re breaking their own regulations.”

The second communal box he referred to is at Fox Ranch Road. Ben Griffin timed how long it took a car to reach the communal box after first appearing – a safety test Canada Post runs when site-ing communal boxes – and the fastest time was eight seconds, which is six seconds faster than the Canada Post minimum 14 seconds (some timed vehicles were well within the safety standard).

Bacon claimed the Highway 2 site is dangerous.

A review of conditions at the site indicated a number of potential risk factors. Drivers leaving Amherst will be accelerating – the speed on the road is 80 km/h – and will come over a hill at the base of which is the post box entrance (albeit a substantial distance away). There is a business next door, as well as Smith Road, both of which mean turning traffic, some of it comprised of large trucks. In addition, agricultural vehicles are common on that stretch of road.

Both men have personal reasons to be upset as well.

“They evaluated everybody’s mail boxes…,” said Griffin.

The man said he met all the conditions required to make his private box comply with safety regulations – he has a voicemail saved, he said, verifying his compliance. But his wife confirmed many, if not all, of their neighbours have received keys. It’s just a matter of time, they think, before their key will arrive in the mail, too.

The lane into the parking lot where the Highway 2 communal box is located is nominally part of Bacon’s property. Most of the parking lot is unreservedly his.

The post box itself is off his property and, despite the driveway being built at Bacon’s own expense, much if not all of the land between the road and the box itself likely falls under the jurisdiction of the department of transportation (which has legal claim to a corridor on either side of public highways, even though many landowners think of those lands as their own).

 Still, he’s upset he wasn’t consulted about Canada Post’s plan to use a lane he built and land that’s always been part of his holdings.

The safety issue is a red herring, according to both men: denying personal delivery to rural clients is a cost-cutting measure.

“No, not at all,” said Anick Losier, a spokesperson for Canada Post.

She said the switch has been expensive, but that it’s required to be in compliance with employment safety requirements. Canada Post doesn’t want to endanger anyone’s safety, according to Losier, but they also have liability for their employees.

Employee fatalities were a catalyst for a safety review. A total of 840,000 rural mailboxes were slated for review. The spokesperson said 90-per cent of boxes are able to pass the review, but the remainder need another solution for delivery, such as communal boxes.

She understands the changes are not popular but said they were legally required, in part, by the criminal code.

Losier requested information on the locations of the two communal boxes, the implication being that further inquiries into their safety might be made.

esparling@amherstdaily.com