By Tom Gilchrist
For The Advertiser
Some folks in Tuscola, Vassar, Millington and Arbela townships aren’t happy about damage to their mailboxes — allegedly from Tuscola County Road Commission snowplows while clearing roads.
“I’ve got some people south of Vassar complaining about mailboxes being knocked over,” said Mike Zwerk, one of five members of the board overseeing the Road Commission.
“One guy drove down Vassar Road and claimed 42 mailboxes were either knocked over or twisted,” Zwerk told Road Board members on March 13. The county resident examined an area of Vassar Road south of Brown Road, according to Zwerk.
Zwerk said residents of that area were “very disgusted” by damage to their mailboxes by a plow early one recent Sunday morning.
“I don’t know if the operator was disgusted that he was called out to work, or what,” Zwerk said.
Road Commission employees plan to locate the road board’s policy on how to handle situations involving damage to mailboxes. The board meets again at 8 a.m. March 27.
Road Commission Superintendent/Manager Jay Tuckey said he drove about seven miles on Vassar Road in the southern end of the county and “couldn’t find a dozen (mailboxes) … that were twisted around.”
“It concerns me that maybe some of this is being exaggerated somewhat to make people look bad,” Tuckey said.
From Brown Road south, Vassar Road stretches seven miles to Willard Road — the Tuscola/Genesee county line.
“I’d like to see us have a policy that if we knock the mailbox over with the blade, we would replace it — the post itself,” Zwerk said.
But some Road Commission officials said damage can occur to mailboxes simply from drifted snow being pushed off a road by a plow — and into mailboxes.
Road Board Vice-Chairman Gary Parsell said that due to hard-packed snow covering roads this winter, a plow operator “has got to have some speed to move it off the road and when the snow’s heavy like that, that’s how you move it.” Parsell added that “Most (plow operators) are happy to work on Sunday because they’re getting time and a half their pay.”
Former Road Commission employee Charles Dennis told the Road Board that “I’ve seen mailboxes where the mailbox is actually hanging out over the (paved road).”
Zwerk, however, said the damage to mailboxes in southern Tuscola County is “bad, bad, bad P.R.” for the Road Commission.
“I think we should do something,” Zwerk said. “I don’t know if this guy should be reprimanded or written up. I know snow is heavy, but it’s inexcusable to drive down the road and do that much damage.”
But Road Board Chairman Jack Laurie said that “If we start replacing mailboxes, I think we’re going to get a poor job of plowing.”