Winters snow events are common occurrences in Minnesota, and snowplows are a regular sight. For those living on county highways, the plow might go by two or three times during the snow event, said Shannon Terry, Otter Tail County Public Information Officer.
Mailboxes on county roads are allowed to be there within the road right of way, meaning the county generally is not liable for any damages, repairs or replacements. The only case in which the county will repair or replace a mailbox is if it is damaged by direct contact with snowplow equipment.
Direct contact with snowplow equipment is “if part of the plow hits the mailbox,” Terry said.
Mailboxes are often damaged by large chunks of heavy snow flung by the plow. When this happens the county is not responsible for the damage, Terry said, because the mailbox is within the road right of way.
Mailboxes being hit by a snowplow is rare. So far for the 2019-20 snowplowing season, only five mailboxes have been damaged by direct contact with a county snowplow, Terry said.
In the rare event that a mailbox is damaged by direct contact with a snowplow, the professional plow driver will mark the box with pink tape the reads "county will fix," Terry said. A report will then be filed by that driver with the county, and the county will fix the damage to the mailbox on a day that the plows are not running. Depending on the snow event, repairs might not happen for a few days or a week after the damage takes place.
Both break-away and swing-away mailbox types are recommended by the county for safety in these events, as both kinds pose less of a danger if hit.
The county will replace or repair mailboxes if the damage is caused by direct contact with a snowplow. When the county replaces a mailbox they do so with a swing-way mailbox, Terry said. However, it is the responsibility of the resident to initially obtain and install their original mailbox.
For more information on Otter Tail County mailbox policy visit ottertailcountymn.us/content-page/mailbox-information.