U.S. mail delivery threatened by sloughing roads’ condition

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 1, 2009

Neighbors in a community south of Vicksburg off U.S. 61 South thought their mailboxes were going to be left empty on Wednesday after receiving a notice from the Vicksburg branch of the U.S. Post Office on Tuesday.

The letter notified the residents of the “impassible condition” of the private roads that lead to their homes, consequently suspending mail delivery.

However, shortly after the letter was sent, some neighbors said they saw repairs being done along a few of the roads.

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“He (Pete Buford) came and dragged the road” on Tuesday, said Carol Wilson, a recipient of the letter. “Every time it rains, he drags the road but it doesn’t help.”

This morning, Buford said he has no intention of increasing his maintenance on the six roads.

“I don’t own the road, they own the road,” he said. “I’ll fix it when it needs it.”

Postmaster Fannie B. Smith said Wednesday that letters were sent to about 120  residences on the roads in question.

Buford, a Vicksburg developer, is the party identified by the post office as a partner in a company and responsible for maintaining the roads. Apparently, deeds issued to residents define their lot lines as the middle of the roadways and reserve travel easements for other property owners and maintenance purposes. None of that matters to the postal service.

“When we make a delivery to a private road, we have an agreement with them that they maintain their roads for our carriers,” Smith said. “When a carrier tells us of a situation, we’re bound as an employer to go out and investigate.”

Smith said post office supervisors were told of the poor road condition by the contract carrier for the area and had assessed gravel and dirt roads that include Stillwater, Bluecreek, Impala, Buford, Hackberry and Red Oak drives as substandard.

“We can’t put them in unsafe working conditions,” Smith said. “The carrier said it’s taken a toll on her vehicle. When they come see me, it’s the last resort.”

The letter to the residents dated Sept. 29 reads, “Efforts have been made to get this problem resolved but no response has been received concerning intentions to make these road repairs. As a result, delivery to your present mailbox is suspended until these repairs are made.”

Despite the repairs on Tuesday, neighbors were worried about the long-term effects rain and winter weather will have on the roads, and some feel Buford should take more serious actions for improving conditions.

“It’ll be ridiculous every time we can’t get our mail,” said Wilson, who has lived on Buford Drive for six years. “He (Buford) needs to pave the road and fix the gutters.”

Wilson said she has contacted both the City of Vicksburg and the Warren County Board of Supervisors and had no luck. State law forbids use of public crews or equipment on private roads or driveways. Developers must first build private roads up to city or county specifications and then petition to have them accepted for work at public expense.

Wilson said the ruts in the roads are causing flooding in the neighborhood and in turn causing damages to her home.

She said it was the first time she had received a letter from the post office, but said the problems in the roads have been occurring for much longer.

Her neighbor Ronnie Laird, who has lived on the corner of Buford Drive and Red Oak Drive for 11 years, agrees.

“It was a mess,” he said. “He (Buford) needs to put something down that won’t wash out every time it rains.”

Laird recalled the postal carrier’s vehicle was stuck in the mud on the road less than 200 yards from his home nearly two weeks ago during the rain.

“She had to call the tow truck to come get her out,” he said. 

Smith had confirmed that it’s the post office policy to send notices to any residents before their mail is suspended.

She said it is in the best interest of rural carriers to complete their entire delivery because it determines their pay.

“They are paid based on their mileage and amount of their delivery,” Smith said. “They don’t want to bring anything back.”

As for now, the mail carrier for Route 17, which includes 981 addresses will deliver until any road is deemed “impassable.”


Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at mchan@vicksburgpost.com