LAKE TWP. — Your mailbox was at the end of your driveway the last time you looked.
That was before the snowplow passed, shoving aside the heavy, wet snow Mother Nature graced the region with overnight.
Now it’s gone.
Most townships in Stark County have policies covering the replacement of destroyed mailboxes during wintertime snow removal, said Township Administrator Sophia Troyer-Kapadia.
In Lake’s case, trustees spent $1,661 last month to replenish its inventory of mailboxes, a cache kept on hand at the township garage in the event a snow emergency leaves any roadside casualties.
In most cases, drivers say, it’s not the plow itself that hits the mailbox.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time is the snow load that’s coming off the plow,” said Daniel R. Kamerer, township road superintendent.
Typically, the mailbox door or the flag may be damaged when struck by a pile of snow and typically, the road department sends workers to verify the damage was a result of the snow removal and to try to repair it.
Kamerer said Tuesday that, so far this season, his crew has repaired two or three damaged mailboxes.
“One we fixed, the lid was just knocked off. The other one, we replaced. But it was probably weak before the snowfall,” he said.
Last year, township road crews replaced 27 mailboxes they determined were destroyed during street-clearing efforts, Kamerer said. They replaced 32 the prior season.
As of Tuesday, the township garage had 46 spares in its inventory, Kamerer said, adding that the township’s recent purchase will place another 60 on order.
“We keep them in stock and every couple of years, we try to replenish with the most popular colors and styles,” Troyer-Kapadia said.
This year, the popular plastic boxes are either black or green. They feature a red flag, an enclosable box and an open space for newspapers and other small deliveries.
The mailboxes are considered “generic” by township policy, which sets a cap on the replacement price at $75.
Troyer-Kapadia said the policy had to be amended in 2014 after a mailbox valued at $500 was destroyed during a snow-related incident.
The policy limits the township’s responsibility “to repair of the existing mailbox, replacement with a generic mailbox or as close to the existent mailbox as possible, or submission of a receipt for reimbursement of the established cost of the materials for the U.S. postal mailbox and post materials.”
Lake Township purchases from Step 2 in Streetsboro, which manufactures the boxes, at a reduced rate, which the township pays every couple of years, Troyer-Kapadia said.
In 2014 and 2016, the price was $47.99 a box, she said, adding that this year, it went down to only $41.53 a box.
If the weather prevents a new installation, crew members will bring a temporary mailbox to the address and, when weather permits, return to install the new one, Kamerer said.
Elsewhere, Stark County will leave a temporary box and return in the spring with a more permanent solution.
But county road crews do not keep a large supply of replacement mailboxes on hand.
Stark County has no official policy to replace mailboxes damaged during snow-clearing.
“We might damage a dozen a year,” said Stark County Engineer Dave Torrence.
“Usually it’s the wet, heavy snow that’s the problem,” he said. “If they’re on metal posts, they get bent or knocked over by the snow. When you get that wet, heavy snow and our guys are going by at 20 or 30 mph, that heavy snow gets up into the blade. We’re pushing that snow back onto the berm and it’s the snow that takes out the mailbox.”
County workers will repair or reset damaged mailboxes, but the county road department keeps a few mailboxes on hand “in case something happens,” Torrence said.
The county’s inventory of mailboxes is only about two dozen.
If the postal delivery worker arrives to find no mailbox to leave the mail inside of, it won’t be left in the snow.
Twana Barber, communications specialist for the U.S. Postal Service, said the homeowner will just need to pick up their mail at the post office.