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Hartland takes closer look at mailbox posts

July 14, 2010

Village of Hartland — Homeowners who violate a longstanding village policy governing curbside mailbox posts might soon be asked to remove or change the posts.

It's not necessarily the designs of certain posts that village officials find objectionable - it's their size and the fact that they are placed in the village right-of-way, posing a potential liability to the village should a driver or pedestrian run into one and get injured.

"We're concerned about the safety of the public," explained Public Works Director Mike Einweck.

According to village policy, metal mailbox posts must have an inside diameter of 2 inches or less. Square wood supports must be no larger than 4 inches by 4 inches, while round wood posts can be no larger than 4.5 inches in diameter; anything bigger than that could be seen as a potentially dangerous obstruction in the village right-of-way.

Posts of the size and materials described above are considered to be "breakaway" designs; some other items that are commonly placed in public right-of-way, such as fire hydrants, are also designed to break away in the event of a crash.

On Monday night, the Village Board discussed the village's current policy, spurred by a mailbox stand recently constructed by Hartland homeowner Rick Serres, 432 Hartwood Lane. In May, Serres built a mailbox stand on his property using concrete Versa-Lok retaining wall blocks left over from a recent patio project.

According to Einweck, Serres called the village on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend to ask about village policies regarding mailbox posts. Einweck, who would normally handle such inquiries, was on vacation, so Serres was unable to get an answer.

Serres built his stand over the weekend. On the Tuesday after Memorial Day, Einweck called Serres and explained the village's policy. Einweck asked Serres to remove the stand, which Serres has not yet done.

According to Serres, his post is a freestanding concrete pillar, built without using any materials to connect the blocks to one another. "You could literally push it over," he told the Village Board.

At Monday's meeting, Serres questioned how a mailbox post could be considered a liability, while trees planted by the village in the right-of-way are not considered obstructions.

Serres brought with him dozens of photos showing other mailbox posts and decorative elements installed in village right-of-way.

Village Trustee Karen Compton said that the village plants trees for the benefit of the village. But when a property owner installs something on village right-of-way, "that's somebody giving us the liability that we didn't ask for."

The board ultimately chose to make no changes to its policy.

While there are no plans to do a villagewide inspection, if village staff comes across a nonconforming post, the homeowner will likely be asked to remove the post. If a homeowner refuses to take down a post, public works staff could potentially remove it and bill the property owner for the work.

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