Greenwich Time (Sunday)

Only Congress can fix town’s zip code ID crisis

- By Jesse Leavenwort­h

SCOTLAND — For years, people in this eastern Connecticu­t town have suffered the confusion of fragmented mailing addresses that assign most residents ZIP codes outside town lines.

Randy Danburg, for example, lives on Hanover Road in Scotland, but his mail must bear a ZIP code from Baltic, a village in neighborin­g Sprague.

“Getting deliveries here was just a nightmare,” the 19-year resident said.

In fact, this tiny town with a population of 1,576, has six ZIP codes. And all but one covering the town center, 06264, are from neighborin­g towns and villages. The resulting muddle has stalled and complicate­d every kind of transactio­n, from registerin­g a car to receiving packages, said former first selectman Gary Greenberg, who has long lobbied for a solution.

Now U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, have proposed bicameral legislatio­n to give Scotland one unifying ZIP code. The bills were introduced in the House and Senate in March.

“Scotland’s fragmented ZIP code system not only undermines the town’s identity,” Courtney said Wednesday, “but also impairs the timely and accurate delivery of mail and bottleneck­s routine processes that residents rely on their ZIP code for, like the delivery of absentee ballots or notices from Town Hall ... I look forward to working with local and federal partners to see this legislatio­n through and solve this problem once and for all.”

“As soon as I heard that Scotland has been struggling to fix this issue on their own, I wanted to help,” Murphy said. “This bill is a simple piece of legislatio­n that would establish a single, unique ZIP code and put an end to this years-long headache once and for all.”

Across the nation, there are 41,683 Zone Improvemen­t Plan codes, a system that started in 1963. In parochial Connecticu­t, two or more ZIP codes in one town is common, reflecting villages and sections that in some cases are more prominent than the incorporat­ed municipali­ty. But the chronic hodgepodge in Scotland is different because the mailing codes for most people are outside the town’s boundaries.

Details on how the jumble developed “are eyeglazing,” Greenberg said, but the system is a holdover from the days of Rural Free Delivery to farms, which started at the turn of the last century. People in the center of Scotland were assigned a local ZIP code, but outlying residents got codes from Canterbury, Hampton, Windham, and Sprague. Currently, the town center post office serves boxholders and about 20 residences, Greenberg said, while the rest of Scotland’s 625 houses have five different ZIP codes.

Russell Perry, owner of Perry Motors in the center of Scotland, and two men who had stopped by to visit Wednesday morning spoke of people getting jury duty notices for New London court because while Scotland is in Windham County, their mailing addresses are in neighborin­g Sprague, part of New London County. Puzzled delivery drivers also are common, Perry said.

“It’s been a mess for years,” he said.

Delivery companies

and some government entities use the Postal Service’s address database, “so the confusion metastasiz­es through the data-industrial complex,” Greenberg said, “making it difficult to establish residency, get your motor vehicle tax bills, find a house with GPS, get a passport, get your solar panels turned on, know where to vote, or even, in one case, know where to send your kids to school.”

One family sent a child to the wrong school for years, he said, “and on top of that, it’s impossible to keep accurate public health, unemployme­nt, (and other) statistics as they are sorted by ZIP code, or even, if you are a local official, to know who lives in your town.”

Packages are routinely

returned or delivered to the wrong addresses, and same-named streets compound the problem. Plains Road in Scotland, for example, is handled by the Windham Center post office, but there’s also a Plains Road in Windham.

“People on the two different roads know each other’s business well,” Greenberg said.

About three years ago, the Postal Service tried a remedy that allowed some residents to add “Scotland” to their mailing addresses, along with their assigned out-of-town ZIP code, but that just caused more confusion, he said.

Asked for comment about the bills introduced in Congress, Postal Service spokespers­on Amy Gibbs said, “They still have to go through Postal.

It takes a lot to change a ZIP or ZIP code boundary. ZIP codes are a postal function so we can deliver mail effectivel­y. “

Gibbs referred to the Postal Service’s boundry review process for changing a ZIP Code.

But Greenberg, who left office in 2023, said town officials went through that process and got nowhere. Congressio­nal action to approve a single ZIP code is the path forward, he said, promising less headaches, better record keeping, and better service for the people who call Scotland home.

Current First Selectman Dana Barrow said he supports the effort to give the town a single ZIP Code “110 percent.” The change would remove confusion and frustratio­n for residents

and town workers and stop, for example, death certificat­es and car tax bills going to the wrong towns, Barrow said.

He acknowledg­ed, however, that some people in town do not favor the change. Danburg, the Hanover Road resident, said he is in that camp. After many headaches and phone calls navigating the split between his actual residence and mailing address, things are working smoothly now and he is getting his mail and his packages, Danburg said.

If his address is changed, however, and he has to adopt a new ZIP code, he said he fears renewed confusion.

“I don’t have a problem anymore,” the retiree said. “Everybody’s educated.”

 ?? Jesse Leavenwort­h / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Scotland resident Randy Danburg said he had many headaches with his mail due to his out-of-town ZIP Code.
Jesse Leavenwort­h / Hearst Connecticu­t Media Scotland resident Randy Danburg said he had many headaches with his mail due to his out-of-town ZIP Code.

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