A Hummel Report Investigation
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is being entrusted with hundreds of millions of dollars to repair the state’s failing bridges. But some residents in Smithfield give the D.O.T. a failing grade when it comes to taking care of the smaller stuff: After insisting on installing its own mailboxes as part of a repaving project five years ago, the D.O.T. has largely abandoned numerous people whose boxes have been damaged or knocked off by snow plows. Jim Hummel takes their complaints to the department, which now acknowledges it needs to fix the problem - and pledges to do so soon.
Five years ago the Rhode Island Department of Transportation repaved part of Route 116 in Smithfield. The state told everyone living along Pleasant View Avenue - as it’s known locally - that they’d be taking down their mailboxes and the state would provide new ones, in part because new sidewalks were being laid.
Polseno: ``I had a beautiful mailbox.’’
It sounded great in theory, but Tony Polseno, whose family owns Pleasant View Orchards had a bad feeling about the state’s plans.
For 50 years Polseno has seen snowplows come by, taking out mailboxes that were too close to the road. Polseno had his own gameplan for avoiding the plow.
Polseno: ``In a barrel, old barrel, way back, planted nice stuff in it, they said no you can’t. I used to move it when the snowplow come. Move it every year. Then we had to use theirs and they said that’s the state.’’
So when the state started putting poles in to mount the mailboxes Polseno knew there was going to be trouble.
Hummel: ``When they were putting that pole in did you have concerns about how close it was to the street?’’
Polseno: `` Yeah, they said they’d take of that.’’
Hummel: ``Did you tell them this may be a problem with the plows?’’
Polseno: ``Yes they knew it, the guy who put it in: Yeah, I know it.’’
Hummel: ``And what did he say to you?’’
Polseno: ``That’s it. He says we know it. I knew it was too close the minute I seen it.’’
This is what a mile-plus-long stretch of Pleasant View Avenue looks like today: box…after box…after box….after box; damaged, knocked over or knocked off altogether. And the neighbors, who originally complained to the state after the first takedowns, have all but given up trying to contact the D.O.T.