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Surprise! Road project included removal, replacement of dozens of mailboxes in Hammond area

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HAMMOND - Several roads were recently repaved in Tangipahoa Parish with federal grant dollars, but many were surprised to learned what that included.

Penny Caracciola is upset that someone removed her mailbox and replaced it with a different one.

"That doesn't make any sense," she said. "Why would they just come take our mailbox up? It's been there for 17 years. It's never been hit. It's not in the way."

All up and down her street, the mailboxes were replaced with gray break-away boxes. The old mailboxes were dug up and placed on the homeowner's property.

Some of her neighbors received a letter on Dec. 20 from the contractor letting them know the change was coming in the next two weeks. One person found the letter in their door while another person found the letter in the ditch in front of their home.

Caracciola says she never found hers.

Few people who got the letter and called were able to save their mailbox.

"Everybody else either didn't get the letters, or they didn't call in time," Caracciola said.

The project was completed with federal grant dollars. Tangipahoa Parish applied for the grant about four years ago. The parish says once those dollars were received, the state took over the project, handling the bidding process and hiring the contractor.

Five roads were repaved, including Rufus Bankston Road, Wardline Road, Sister's Road, North Baptist Road and Happywoods Road. When using federal funds, local entities must follow the federal guidelines, which include replacing the mailboxes.

A total of 155 mailboxes were replaced on the five roads. Parish President Robby Miller says the parish was left out of the loop of the contract.

"We went to bat for the citizens and DOTD, and the contractor said, 'No, you have to do this,'" Miller said. "We've been the customer along with our citizens, and we're just as frustrated as they are."

Several people have called the parish complaining about the change. While some people are happy to receive a new mailbox, others maintain their other mailbox was much nicer than the one it's been replaced with.

"If they get hit, is DOTD going to replace it? Is the postal service going to replace it? No, it's going to be on the homeowner," said Caracciola.

While some of the mailboxes have reflective numbers, many have numbers written in Sharpie on the front of the box.

"What we found out was they didn't budget for the letters, the numbers. They were trying to figure out what it was going to cost and who was going to pay for it," Caracciola said.

She says she won't be paying for the numbers, and instead will be putting her old mailbox back, federal requirements or not.

The state is responsible for ensuring the federal guidelines are followed. With the mailboxes, they have to meet safety and U.S. Postal Service requirements. DOTD has a form and process it uses when mailboxes that don't meet those requirements must be removed.


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