HOWLAND, Maine — If your mailbox is in the public right of way and a town plow truck nails it, you’re out of luck.
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously earlier this week to hold homeowners responsible for damage done to mailboxes when the mailboxes are within 12 feet of the center of town roads, which are supposed to be 24 feet wide, and within 16½ feet from the center of all 33-foot-wide state roads, Selectman Joseph Dunn said.
Residents who lose mailboxes in other conditions may seek restitution from the town.
The discussion arose from Town Manager Glenna Armour’s report that a resident complained of a truck damaging a mailbox during the storm of Dec. 21 and 22, which dumped 1 to 2 feet of snow in Penobscot County.
Selectmen were sympathetic to the homeowner and with plow drivers who have to work in difficult conditions, Selectman Frank Kirsch said.
“The first time I drove a plow truck, years ago, I took ’em all down,” Kirsch said Friday. “Oh, you should have heard some of the town managers. ‘What was that guy doing?’
“It’s just one of those things,” he added. “I don’t know if it’s the plowing or if the pressure of the snow that does it, but it happens.”
Residents who infringe upon the right of way, even unknowingly, are planting their property in land they do not own, Dunn said.
“We own the right of way and we have to push the snow back,” Dunn said.
Residents should try to avoid problems by shoveling out their mailbox stands. Often, Kirsch said, the heavy wet snow and ice that accumulates around mailbox poles causes them to go down, not a plow strike, when roads are cleared.
The town Department of Public Works has two trucks and its drivers do a good job, Kirsch said.
“I haven’t heard a complaint in years,” Dunn said.