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Mailboxes 2.18

Several mailboxes along Normal Boulevard were damaged or destroyed by snowplows clearing streets in mid-February.

Joni Mueller’s silver mailbox — the kind that opens from both sides — stood along Old Cheney Road for 22 years without mishap, through dozens of snowstorms.

And when it was felled by a city snowplow this winter, Mueller figured it had served her well. She and her husband, Dale, bought a new mailbox, also with doors that open from both sides because Old Cheney can be a little busy.

A day after they installed the new mailbox, city snowplows knocked it over after yet another winter storm. So Mueller filed a claim with the city for both mailboxes.

Mueller’s claim was automatically denied by the city Law Department, but the Lincoln City Council agreed to reconsider the claim Monday after Mueller appealed that decision in person at the council meeting.

Councilwoman Jane Raybould, who asked the council to take another look at Mueller’s and other mailbox claims, said she hopes the council pays those claims. She also said she doesn’t believe paying additional claims sets any precedent.

Mueller pointed out the similarities between her case and the mailboxes plowed down along Normal Boulevard during a mid-February storm. The council agreed to pay those claims up to $100 after the incident got television and newspaper coverage, and Lincoln Transportation and Utilities Department Director Miki Esposito encouraged the city to pay the claims.

Like Normal Boulevard, the snowplows hit multiple mailboxes in a two-block area of Old Cheney, west of Warlick Boulevard, where it narrows to two lanes, Mueller said. Four mailboxes were hit the first time and six the second time, two weeks later, she said.

Mueller wanted to know if her claim was disregarded because the sideswiping of mailboxes on her street “wasn’t put on TV,” referring to news reports of the Normal Boulevard incident.

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Two weeks ago, the City Council agreed to pay claims for eight Normal Boulevard mailboxes, a break with a long tradition of refusing to pay claims for mailboxes hit by snowplows.

The city takes no responsibility for private property in the public right of way, and mailboxes fall in that category.

In fact, at the same meeting, the council denied claims for three mailboxes damaged by snowplows that were not on Normal Boulevard. 

Raybould said the Old Cheney Road claims fall in the same category of unusual circumstances where a number of mailboxes were damaged at the same time.  

This won't set a precedent, she said. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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