Mailboxes and sewers are much needed in every community.
Every now and then regulations need to be tweaked to prevent issues costing the city and the taxpayers money. Alexander City public works director Gerard Brewer said the placement of some homeowners’ postal boxes are creating extra costs for paving projects. City sewer director John Mcwhorter said tweaks to prevent grease from entering the city’s sewer system are needed. Neither problem is new and city departments have been dealing with the issues for years.
“This is a problem that has gotten worse,” Brewer said. “The problem we are dealing with is we also have not just our equipment but contractors’ equipment coming in to do work.”
The issue of the mailboxes is the placement over the roadway prevents work from being done to the road. It even creates issues for the streetsweeper because the machinery can not get all the way to the edge of the road. But the larger concern besides the debris left behind is the added costs to paving projects.
“The contractor is completely liable for them, even if they are improperly installed,” Brewer said. “They can’t move them because it is legal, they are protected by federal law.”
Mailboxes over the road increase costs of bids for projects as a result of the improperly installed mailboxes and contractors add those costs into bids.
Brewer said the U.S. Postal Service has requirements for the installation of mailboxes and they are posted online, but no one but the owner of the mailbox can touch it even with the boxes in the city’s right of way.
“City owns part of the right of way,” Brewer said. “We also share that right of way with legitimately and properly installed post office boxes. They have to be behind the curb or back off the road so the equipment we use to clean the road and put down pavement can clear it.”
Brewer said last year city crews identified more than 30 mailboxes installed improperly. To help with the issue, Brewer said owners of mailboxes that are improperly installed will be given a notice before work is done.
The change for property owners is the city will no longer reimburse owners of improperly installed mailboxes when the city damages them.
Brewer said many cities up north have already dealt with the issue because of the need for snow plows.
The city will repair damaged mailboxes when properly installed and damaged by the city but those do not include those from brick. Since mailboxes are subject to being hit by automobiles, they must be breakaway.
“Brick mailboxes are not breakaway,” Brewer said.
John McWhorter heads up Alexander City’s sewer department and for several years been promoting programs to limit the introduction of grease to the city’s sewer system. McWhorter has helped implement a recycling program where jugs are left in cages in strategic places across the city. Last year the program prevented more than 200 gallons of grease from entering city sewers. To help further reduce grease introduction, McWhorter is suggesting changes to city ordinances and zoning to make new high density developments and new restaurants include grease traps.
“It is mainly multifamily dwellings, duplexes, apartment complexes and even houses in a new development where someone is building five rental houses on one property,” mcWhort4er said. “We want to get those plumbed through a grease trap because that is where we see our biggest hit as far as grease is concerned.”
Businesses can be a big entry point of grease especially restaurants. McWhorter said he wants to amend city ordinances to make sure there is no argument over who is responsible in multi-tenant developments.
“We have been asked a couple of times before about food service facilities in a shopping center sharing a grease trap,” McWhorter said. “(We) have done a lot of research in other municipalities and they say do not do it.”
Councilmember Eric Brown agrees the sharing of a grease trap. should not happen.
“That is an argument waiting to happen,” Brown said.
McWhorter said sharing leads to multiple issues between the various tenants and the city and a requirement for new restaurants is needed.
Other changes will be no sink disposals in high density housing developments.
“They are not watching what they are putting down them,” McWhorter said. “It is another big contributor to the grease problem.”
McWhorter said the suggested changes requiring grease traps are needed even when old apartment complexes are renovated.
“We need to come up with a point it needs to be included in the renovation,” McWhorter said.
In the meantime the city will continue the grease recycling program using the jugs.
“The apartment complexes have been great at providing a place to put the recycle cage,” McWhorter said. “It is good for us, good for them.”