SYLVESTER – Vernon DeMings of Sylvester sits at his kitchen table poring over letters from Canada post. Sent in spring 2013, they informed him he’d no longer be getting mail at his mailbox across the road from his home.
Sylvester resident Vernon DeMings, 91, has been receiving mail at his residence without incident for the past 12 years. While he began receiving mail at a community mailbox in Alma, icy, slippery and unsafe conditions led DeMings to pick up his mail at the Westville Post office instead. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS
Instead, he could opt in to a bank of community boxes in Alma or pick up his mail at the Westville post office. He chose Alma.
But it’s been anything but a smooth transition for the 91-year-old and his wife.
“Those boxes by the store in Alma are about the worst place in the world,” said DeMings, a former general superintendent of R. A. Douglas Construction.
Yet, since June, that is where he’s had to receive his mail, about five kilometres away. Not quite an ordeal to get his mail, but certainly no picnic.
“There’s the double line on that road trying to get in and out of there with cars going by over the speed limit of 80 km/h,” he said. “Not to mention the slope up to the boxes.”
The latter has proven hazardous for a man with two knee replacements, as winter snow and ice have collected. According to DeMings, Canada Post has done a poor job at keeping the area plowed and ice-free, something they said they would do in the letters he received.
“I moved here 14 years ago to downsize, since there were four sets of stairs in my old house,” he said. “But that much ice around the mailboxes is too dangerous.”
After assessing his options, which included a moving his mailbox with a bank of private boxes down the Loch Broom Road and moving to a community mailbox in Sylvester, he opted for one of the original choices to pick up his mail in Westville.
“Sure, the other options might have been closer but I had no assurance that those boxes would be plowed or if it’d be safe to walk near,” said DeMings. “The piece of mind in getting my mail in Westville is worth the drive.”
He noted that local Canada Post staff in Westville was very helpful in making the second transition from the community boxes in Alma to the post office possible. They even ensured the area around the mailboxes in Alma were sanded and salted.
“There’s hand rails, it’s plowed out and safe to park in Westville,” said DeMings. “There’s just no protection at community boxes and at 91, I’m not walking five kilometres both ways.”
This is at odds with Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra who noted in December that seniors have told the corporation they want more exercise and fresh air, presumably by walking to their community mailboxes.
Local politicians were engaged, with emails and phone calls to MLA Karla MacFarlane and MP Peter MacKay.
He was unsatisfied at Canada Post’s findings in 2013, namely, that a traffic safety review conducted by the mail service had found his box to be unsafe making it ‘potentially dangerous for our delivery personnel and the motoring public’.
“Someone from Canada Post came to look at my box and he said it was unsafe because it wasn’t 90 inches (7.5 ft.) from the pavement,” DeMings said. “I don’t know where anyone could follow those rules.”
He also noted that his box is safe enough to have the Halifax Herald and flyers delivered. Despite the changes, he’s not quite ready to throw in the towel yet.
“I’ll have to be satisfied for now,” DeMings said. “But come springtime, if I’m still alive, I’ll get someone to explain to me why after 12 years, I have to stop getting mail at my home.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn