Postal service announces Zip Code change takes effect Monday
Some residents could see insurance premiums rise by almost $1,000

Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Sept. 29, 2004 -- Neither rain, sleet nor snow is supposed to affect the delivery of mail. Many residents on mail route HC 01 are finding out their financial, insurance, health, and entertainment concerns also won't sway the U.S. Postal Service from its path.

The postal service said late Tuesday that new Zip Code numbers for the area would become effective Monday, according to post office spokeswoman Polly Gibbs.

"We are going to maintain our current Zip Code boundary and go ahead with the changes," she said. "One thing we want to reiterate is this is primarily for the safety and security of our customers, and with the 911 [address] changes, this is going to enhance their security and safety."

The change basically impacts residents in the Seymore and Reilly Springs areas. A letter dated Aug. 21 from the U.S. Postal Service to those residents told them their physical residence was outside the Zip Code boundary of Sulphur Springs delivery and their mail service will be provided by the Yantis Post Office.

Gibbs said the post office had determined that moving the Zip Code boundary down to the Hopkins-Wood county line would have meant 95 people that are currently served by Yantis Post Office would have to go to Sulphur Springs.

In a public meeting held on the Zip Code change earlier this month, several residents presented information relating not only to increased insurance costs and changes in television service, but the need to continue with primary care physicians. Some residents with special health needs that have been handled by specialists in Dallas may now be forced to start over again with new doctors in other cities, including Tyler.

The post office spokeswoman said those with special problems or needs were outnumbered by the 95 customers the post office wants served by the Yantis Post Office.

"The 95 that would be affected, if we did what some customers are asking we do and move that Zip Code boundary, those customers are a concern, as well, to us," she said. "We asked for information from individuals, and we got that information, and to the best of our ability, we are trying to help identify the problems and forward them to the best people. We're trying to minimize any kind of impact."

The insurance concerns involved significant increases in the cost of homeowner's insurance coverage for several residents. Three letters to affected property owners quoted increases ranging from more than $500 annually to just less than $1,000 per year.

Gibbs said the requests to members of the Texas Congressional Delegation regarding the insurance problems were an attempt to help remedy cost increases, but she also said the cost of insurance was not the Post Office's problem.

"We turned that information over to that congressional office so they could handle it, which they indicated they've done with going to the insurance commission and the audit that's going to commence," Gibbs said.

Bill Brannon, district manager for U.S. Rep. Max Sandlin, said the congressman's office was "very concerned" with the issue.

"Cong. Sandlin is very concerned that any constituent would be damaged by agency actions that they have absolutely no control over and without taking action or doing anything that would create problems for themselves," Brannon said Wednesday morning. "We are going to continue to look into this, and anyone else having a problem should let us know."

Although the request regarding insurance rate zones was made on the federal governmental level, insurance rates are regulated by the Texas State Board of Insurance.

Jerry Hagins with the Texas State Board of Insurance said the change didn't sound like a good deal for the consumer.

"Zip Codes are a pretty important factor in [insurance rates]," Hagins said.

The state insurance board spokesman said the agency was looking into concerns surrounding the Zip Code change as the result of a complaint from a consumer.

"We are aware of this situation," Hagins said. "We are looking into it."

Hagins urged anyone with complaints on the situation to contact his agency's consumer hotline at 1-800-252-3439.

"That's really the mechanism by which we look into things, is when somebody initiates a complaint," he said. "This is a pricing issue. If the rate is one that is not appropriate for the risk it is covering, that's a problem, and that falls under our regulatory interest."

The Zip Code change will result in a greater number of postal consumers for the Yantis office and fewer numbers for the Sulphur Springs office. It will also impact the contract carriers who are serving and will be serving the affected area.

Gibbs said she did not have any information available on any financial savings the change would mean for the post office, and also said the change was not something that was put in place by the postal service.

"We're performing our part of the 911 [addressing] process," she said.

But L.D. Williamson, executive director of Ark-Tex Council of Governments, the agency responsible for 911 addressing in Hopkins County, said at a Sept. 14 meeting on the Zip Code change that the council of governments office was not, in any way, involved with planned change in Zip Codes.

Williamson said in a recent letter the new addresses will not affect the delivery of emergency services to those residents.

"The fact that Zip Codes were changed for people living in Hopkins or Wood Counties did in no way change the delivery of emergency services to their addresses," Williamson said in a letter to Brian Wilson, manager of the Address Management Systems for the United States Postal Service. "The same emergency departments that provided these services before the Zip Code change will still provide them after the change."

With the change due to become effective Monday, Gibbs said help would be available for those residents from the post office.

"Another issue that I want to get across is that we know there are some customers with concerns about how to handle the change that's coming, specifically the change in addresses, and the postmasters in Sulphur Springs and Yantis are both prepared to help those customers in anyway we can," she said. "That help will include filling out change of address cards and post office will forward mail to those addresses for a year."

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