County Mailboxes

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2008

County feeling heat to heed move-the-mailboxes order

By Billy Davis

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Panola County road manager Lygunnah Bean said this week he expects to be “written up” when a State Aid inspector surveys county roads December 9 and December 10.

And this time it won’t be pretty.

That’s because Panola County government has been slow to make property owners move bricked mailboxes and other obstructions, such as fences and utility poles, that are located fewer than 10 feet from the public road.

The move-the-mailbox requirement, which is not new to Mississippi, is meant to minimize injuries in automobiles that travel beyond the road shoulder. 

A spokesman for State Aid, when reached this week, said the state agency has been “writing up” counties since the mid-’90s.

“I was writing counties up in, I think, in ’95 or ’96,” said Lanny Glove, a roadway review engineer for the State Aid office.

With State Aid urging action, Panola supervisors have made hasty progress in recent months; the board approved an ordinance November 3 and published it in this newspaper.

But supervisors’ actions won’t prevent what Bean called a “third strike” next week by a State Aid official.

“I feel like there’s a third strike coming, and it will be my last,” said Bean, who took partial blame for not pushing the issue harder.

The road manager expects the “third strike” will trigger an ultimatum from State Aid that Panola County will lose its state-allocated road funds until the issue is resolved.

County supervisors across the state received that message in September, when a letter penned by State Aid engineer Brooks Miller warned of an October 1 deadline.

State Aid projects, meaning those requested by counties, will be “deferred” until mailboxes “have been brought into compliance,” the letter states.

Counties across Mississippi rely on State Aid for an allotment of funds that pay for improvements to roads and bridges.

When Panola supervisors were forced to skip road paving this summer due to budget constraints, they relied on $1.1 million in State Aid funds. Those monies allowed the road department to resurface Pope-Water Valley, Pope-Crower and J.Q. West roads.

In neighboring Coahoma County, county road manager William Kinard said he was aware of the State Aid requirement but “let it slide” for several years, even when he was written up.

“Then they got my attention,” he said of State Aid.  “I decided I wasn’t going to lose a million dollars over a mailbox.”

The State Aid requirement includes only so-called State Aid roads, but Panola supervisors agreed to apply the rule to all public roads in Panola County.

The ordinance published in The Panolian indicated that its requirements “shall be in full force and effect” after December 1.

Kinard estimated that Coahoma County’s road department has removed four to five brick mailboxes that were not in compliance.

The road department used heavy equipment to pick up and move the heavy bricked mailboxes and was never forced to tear one down.

A homeowner was also forced to move his mobile home at Moon Lake, Kinard said.