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Worries surface over community mailboxes, end of door-to-door service

STELLARTON – Concerns about community mailboxes in other parts of the country have spread to Pictou County, as Canada Post prepares to end door-to-door delivery in New Glasgow and the Lourdes area of Stellarton.

Kevin Peterson of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers made a presentation during a recent Stellarton council meeting, and asked town representatives to consider passing a resolution supporting the continuation of door-to-door delivery.

During his presentation, Peterson spoke about towns in Ontario that have been fighting back, and in some instances picketing against the changes. “Canada Post is hearing that people don’t want them,” he said.

Peterson said he’s heard stories of the negative impacts, including difficulty for wheelchair-bound customers to access their mail from the CMBs, snow not being cleared and litter near the sites.

Canada Post spokesperson Anick Losier said it’s Canada Post’s responsibility to maintain the CMB sites once they are established, taking care of litter around the site, cleaning up any graffiti and removing snow. “Any problems like this, call customer service and we have somebody dispatched right away.”

Peterson also said the Crown corporation has been placing the community mailboxes on people’s property without their permission. “People have come home from work to find excavation going on in their front yard.”

Losier said the CMBs are not located near stop signs or on anyone’s lawn. As much as possible, the community mailboxes are located on municipal easements, which is where fire hydrants or telephone poles are also located. Losier said many people mistakenly believe their property extends all the way to curbs, but this usually isn’t the case.

Questionnaires were mailed out to affected residents seeking their input about the placement of the mailboxes and any needs they may have.

“This information provides us local input from the neighbourhood to help us shape and find the best possible location,” she said.

Losier said it’s imperative that people return the surveys so that the postal service can collect as much information as possible before making decisions about the locations of the mailboxes.

“What we’ve seen across the country is a 25 to 40 per cent response rate. We’re getting a lot of engagement through it. It’s very helpful.”

Once the information from the surveys is compiled, Losier said Canada Post works with municipalities to determine the best sites for the CMBs. “We will investigate every suggestion – 20 to 40 per cent of sites were modified based on feedback.”

She said accommodations can be made for people who have issues with mobility or other difficulties, such as installing a larger handle on a mailbox to make it easier for someone with arthritis to open the box.

“There are a variety of solutions and a variety of cases. That’s why we adapt on a case-by-case basis.”

After discussion by councillors, which involved worries about vandalism, theft and the impact of the CMBs on seniors and disabled people, as well as the placement of the CMBS, the town opted to contact Canada Post for more information.

The city of Hamilton, Ont., tried unsuccessfully to block Canada Post from installing the CMBs by passing a bylaw that required the Crown corporation to obtain a $200 permit per site to install boxes on municipal land. However, late last week an Ontario judge found that the city’s bylaw didn't apply to Canada Post.

The bylaw was brought in after residents complained of safety, privacy, litter and traffic when the mailboxes were installed in locations they deemed less than ideal.

Canada Post announced late in 2014 that it would end door-to-door delivery for four million addresses by 2019 as a cost-saving measure as revenues shrink due to fewer people using the postal service to mail letters.

Losier said door-to-door delivery costs $289 per address per year, while CMBs will cost $116 per address annually. “That’s a huge difference for us.”

Last year a total of 100,000 addresses in 11 communities across the country were converted to community mailboxes.

Losier said the B2H postal code is set to be converted to CMBs in early 2016. It will be the first postal code outside of the Halifax Regional Municipality to receive the new mailboxes.

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