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INDIAN LAND – The U.S. Postal Service motto says, neither “snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” will stop mail couriers from delivering the mail, but as it turns out there is one thing that will – Green Pond Road.
Located off Henry Harris Road, Green Pond Road is a mile-long, single lane road cutting through a beautiful rural slice of the Panhandle.
The road, and the smaller roads it feeds, is home to more than 31 families, none of whom have received mail in their home mailboxes since early October.
Post office officials have determined that the road, in its current state, is too dangerous for mail carriers to continue delivering mail directly to residents’ homes.
Though the post office has recently arranged a temporary fix, residents such as Rena Livengood said they didn’t find out about the unannounced suspension until they started asking postal officials directly about their missing mail.
A letter announcing the decision – delivered, ironically, to residents’ mailboxes – didn’t arrive until Oct. 19.
“Starting two weeks ago, we noticed that our daily mail delivered through the U.S. post office in Fort Mill, was not being delivered,” Livengood said in an Oct. 18 e-mail to the Carolina Gateway. “I called the Fort Mill post office to see if there was a problem.
“I was informed by Postmaster Randy Lambert that our mail would no longer be delivered to us at all because the mail carrier on our route had an accident on our road a few weeks ago,” she wrote. “I asked the postmaster what we were supposed to do about getting our mail – he said we had to come to Fort Mill to pick it up until the road is widened.”
The accident at the center of the investigation occurred Sept. 19 between the mail carrier’s truck and a garbage truck on one of the road’s two sharp, back-to-back curves.
The accident, in which no one was seriously injured, was the carrier’s second accident on Green Pond Road within nine months. The first occurred on or around Jan. 30.
Livengood said the decision left her, and others who had difficulty making the drive to Fort Mill during business hours, without recourse, with bills, letters, absentee ballots and other important mail piling up.
She said even though the narrow road had been the scene of many minor accidents over the years, she and others felt the decision was rash, especially since mail had been delivered along the road for nearly four decades – since well before it was paved – without incident.
“There are two blind curves in the road, but it used to be a dirt road and the county paved the road not too long ago, so it’s in great shape,” Livengood said. “Anyone who is a frequent driver on the road knows when you drive down that road and come to those curves, you have to slow down. It’s wide enough that you can pass each other, typically one person stops and the other passes, and apparently school buses and delivery trucks and their (the post office’s) competitors can still deliver on the road.”
Lambert declined to comment and directed inquiries to U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Monica Robbs.
“There’s no nice way to say it, but we failed to follow proper procedure and we regret any inconvenience the lack of notification caused residents,” she said.
Robbs said the district manager decided to suspend home delivery after reviewing the results of a standard post-accident investigation by the district’s safety department.
She said the safety team determined the road’s narrow width, good driving surface and lack of posted speed limit played a role in the accident, as did the rural driver’s switch from a private vehicle to a much larger post office truck. Robbs said the truck’s 8-foot, 3-inch-wide wheelbase significantly reduced the safety area in which the driver and others have room to safely pass on the road.
She said Lambert decided to reach out to Lancaster County Public Works to see what it could do to make the road safer for delivery. Ideas included shoring up low shoulders and areas around residents’ mailboxes, if needed, and working on lowering the speed limit, which is unposted except for one 15-mph sign near the back end of the road.
Based on the county’s agreement to expedite those measures, the post office decided to install a neighborhood delivery and collections box unit at the end of the road as a temporary solution.
“The goal is never to stop delivery, that’s why it’s called a suspension,” Robbs said. “As soon as they are able to make those changes, we’ll have a safety team go out and review and we can resume the original method of delivery.”
Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis said in the last two weeks the county’s Public Works Department has shored up the shoulders in areas of concern noted by the post office and plans to put gravel around the community mailbox.
He said an engineering study was conducted as required by state law for County Council to lower the speed limit, as well.
Council voted 5-1 to lower the speed limit at its Monday, Nov. 12 meeting.
Willis said the county can’t widen the road since it doesn’t do such extensive work. He said any road-widening decision would have to be made by the County Transportation Committee, which does so based on available funds.
“They get about $1.1 million a year, and that $1.1 million doesn’t get a whole lot of roads paved,” he said.
Among the residents who live in the Green Pond Road area is S.C. House District 45 Rep. Deborah Long, who uses her home address to receive official District 45 mail.
Long said she has spoken to county officials and others about the situation and was told some of the major recommended fixes are “not doable” anytime soon.
Long said she was glad to see the post office has at least moved forward with the community mailbox.
“I understand that it’s in-convenient for some,” she said. “But I don’t think it’s an untenable situation. I think a lot of people were more upset by the fact that they didn’t get their mail for a few days and if you had medicine in there, or a bill that had to be paid, it was a little distressing.”
Livengood said she and others are glad to see the mailbox, though they’d like to have home delivery again.
Livengood said she understands the community mailbox is supposed to be a temporary solution, but she and others are concerned about traffic jams at the end of the road as residents stop to check their mail, something they’re already seeing.
“They came up with a solution, and though we don’t think it’s the best solution, we’ll give it a try and see how it goes,” Livengood said. “I think most of us feel that it’s temporary, but our question now is, how long is temporary?”
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151