Super mailboxes will likely cost city nearly $2M, report says

Canada Post’s plan to cancel door-to-door mail service and install community mailboxes will likely cost Hamilton millions, a new city report shows. But the Crown corporation says it shouldn’t cost nearly that much.

Canada Post says it's giving the city enough to cover the costs

Terry Langley of Canadian Union of Postal Workers local 548 urged councillors in September to do whatever they can to prevent large community mailboxes in Hamilton. A staff report next week says the mailboxes will cost the city nearly $2 million. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Canada Post’s plan to cancel door-to-door mail service and install community mailboxes will likely cost Hamilton millions, a new city report shows. But the Crown corporation says it shouldn’t cost nearly that much.

Canada Post plans to install community mailboxes on the Mountain as early as this spring, and roll them out to the rest of Hamilton over five years.

Reviewing each location Canada Post chooses for its 4,000 community mailboxes could cost the city as much as $522 per location, shows a city report coming to the general issues committee on Wednesday. 

That amounts to $2,088,000 in costs. Canada Post will provide $50 per mailbox, bringing the cost to Hamilton taxpayers down to about $1,888,000.

There shouldn’t be any cost to us, quite frankly.- Coun. Terry Whitehead

The city will also have to hire the full time equivalent of one to 1.5 staff members to do the site evaluations, says the report.

The cost estimate is based on what it currently costs to review utility permits. That comes with concerns such as parking and transit conflicts, crosswalk locations, potential upcoming construction, lighting and drainage.

John Hamilton, spokesman for Canada Post, says $50 per mailbox covered costs for the 11 other communities who converted to the new system last year.

"We’ve done this in many communities," said Hamilton.

Canada Post looks at factors such as community response, street lighting, sidewalks and accessibility with each mailbox location, he said.

"We’ve been able to move forward with ($50 per mailbox) in each community."

But the report suggests the city’s costs will be more complicated than that. The mailboxes could bring ongoing requests for sidewalks and ramps, signs, waste containers for unsolicited mail and other factors.

The mailboxes also expose the city to increased liability in the event that someone is injured on the sites, said Coun. Terry Whitehead of Ward 8. Wards 6, 7, 8 and 9 are the first to be converted to the new system.

'Good faith' offer of $50 per site

City council has already passed a motion to try to prevent the installation of the super mailboxes. Whitehead doesn’t like the idea of the mailboxes costing the city anything.

"There shouldn’t be any cost to us, quite frankly," he said. "It’s supposed to be 100 per cent their cost."

Any money from Hamilton taxpayers "is unacceptable," he said. "We have to get some clarification on that."

Canada Post surveyed communities before locating the mailboxes on the Mountain, Hamilton said. 

Municipalities are being asked to subsidize a profitable corporation.- Terry Langley, president, Canadian Union of Postal Workers local 548

"We’re looking to be as respectful as possible and not require (the city) to do a lot of work," Hamilton said.

"We’ve put forward an offer in good faith of $50 per site to cover additional costs."

The city will have to pay to maintain the boxes, said Terry Langley, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers local 548.

Factor in that Canada Post saw millions in profits in the latter half of 2014, and "municipalities are being asked to subsidize a profitable corporation," he said.

"The reality is pretty shocking."

Job losses likely

The new city report also recommends:

  • That Canada Post consult with residents about eliminating home delivery.
  • That the federal government amend the Mail Receptacles Regulations to recognize the city’s authority to regulate and maintain the mailboxes on public roadways.
  • That community mailboxes be added to a bylaw that regulates installing such infrastructure on road allowances.

Whitehead, Coun. Scott Duvall of Ward 7, Coun. Tom Jackson of Ward 6 and Coun. Doug Conley of Ward 9 will hold a community information session on Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Sackville Hill Seniors Centre about the changes.

"We’re getting lots of questions and lots of complaints," Duvall said. 

The new plan will likely mean job losses for local Canada Post employees, although none are planned immediately. About half of the routes will disappear, Langley said.

Under the current collective agreement, Canada Post can’t lay off workers. That agreement expires in January 2016, said Langley, who represents about 1,300 local workers. He expects the work stability clause to be one of the key items of contention during the next round of negotiations with the corporation. 

The general issues committee meets at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 4.


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