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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    Rural Conn. town has 6 zip codes for just 600 addresses. Congress may step in

    For residents living in the town of Scotland, located in the state’s northeastern Windham County, even just getting a package has become a headache. The rural Connecticut town has only 600 addresses listed, but it has six zip codes.

    It may take federal legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress to change that. The town has tried, and failed, to sort out the issue with the U.S. Postal Service for decades.

    Residents in only one area of the town are assigned the Scotland zip code of 06264. But five other zip codes are from neighboring towns and villages, including Baltic, Canterbury, Hampton, Windham and Sprague.

    Since the town was split up into different zip codes in the 1960s, it has been an issue for residents. Packages, letters and officials documents frequently go missing and have to be tracked down.

    “Next thing you know the cable company is telling you your house doesn’t exist and that’s why you can’t have internet service. Or you’re getting pulled over for an expired car registration that you never received a renewal for. Or you’re turned away at the polls because your voter registration you mailed in went astray. Or you’re running to the Willimantic post office to get those packages your family sent you around Christmas,” said Scotland former First Selectman Gary Greenberg. “When I was in office, not a week went by that someone didn’t come in with a problem.”

    Resident Gary Gagnon, who built his house in Scotland in 1996, said that when he first moved to the town, he wanted to put up a mailbox. But the town said that he had to have a Hampton address since he shared a zip code with the town.

    “Well that’s crazy I thought, I live in Scotland,” Gagnon said. “Most places say my address doesn’t exist, but I’ve been living here for 28 years at the address that doesn’t exist. Recently I haven’t been having that much of a problem because I put 10 Palmer Road, which is the physical address for the post office, so that’s corrected a lot of it. But UPS will not deliver to that post office, so they bring it to Willimantic. I don’t understand why they deliver there, but not in Scotland. I’ve been dealing with this for 28 years.”

    The USPS has declined previous attempts from town officials to change the zip codes and create a new one.

    “Gary Greenberg worked on it for many years and got nowhere. It’s not like we haven’t tried to work with the post office, we have,” said First Selectman Dana Barrow, Jr. “This is a real nuisance for the town. We send out notices for people to come out and vote and a quarter of those come back undeliverable. We double check with the post office and they still come back undeliverable.”

    U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, have introduced federal legislation to force the postal service to make the change.

    “Joe and I are here to announce we are introducing one of the simplest bills that we have introduced in our time in Congress,” Murphy said at a press conference at town hall on Friday. “We are introducing legislation to provide Scotland with one zip code, not six zip codes as it does today. This has been a real nuisance for Scotland residents and businesses for far too long. But in a town this small, that many zip codes leads to some pretty serious problems. Packages that are delayed for days, residents that have trouble filing official documents, tax payments that become overdue. From a practical standpoint, it doesn’t make sense for a town to have this many zip codes.”

    The bill, SB 4052, directs the U.S. post office to designate a single, unique zip code for the town of Scotland. That’s all it reads.

    “Six zip codes, it’s almost preposterous for a population this small,” Courtney said. “Just to put this is context, the town of Enfield, which is the largest in the 2nd Congressional District which Scotland belongs, has just two zip codes. It’s almost comical, you can do a Monty Python skit. But what Chris said it’s not funny, it’s serious.”

    Courtney said that the implications are more than just residents getting their mail and packages delivered: The zip code problem could be impacting more serious issues like voting and census data.

    “In the 2022 election, there was a massive number of undeliverable absentee ballots,” Courtney said. “Time is the enemy when you’re trying to go through the absentee ballot process. So it’s an inescapable conclusion that the right to vote was negatively impacted by this problem. The census count in 2020 also went down from 2010. Certainly that raises questions because the count matters in terms of a community’s eligibility for a whole series of formula driven grants. The need for this problem to be fixed is not about convenience, it’s about fairness.”

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