Sea Bright mayor: Snail mail moving slowly along

Kalaka-Adams, Corodemus appeal to U.S. postmaster for separate ZIP code

BY SUE M. MORGAN Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Sea BrightSea Bright SEA BRIGHT — The struggle to quicken the pace of mail coming over the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge to residents and businesses here rages on.

With Sea Bright residents still receiving mortgage statements, utility and credit card bills — and for that matter, checks — as much as two weeks later than the postmarked date, Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams has pledged that even if she has to go to the U.S. postmaster himself in Washington, D.C., she will do so to remedy the chronic delays.

Though Sea Bright does have its own post office on its side of the bridge, that facility is actually a branch of the Rumson post office, which first receives any mail sent to the 07760 ZIP code assigned by the federal postmaster to the two municipalities.

Except that sometimes, the mail does not make its way across the bridge when expected, according to Kalaka-Adams and Assemblyman Steven J. Corodemus (R-11), who represents the town in Trenton.

Having fielded complaints from numerous constituents about the slow delivery and having received mail late herself, Kalaka-Adams has publicly proclaimed that she is ready to take on the feds.

Essentially, Sea Bright needs to become a squeaky wheel, Kalaka-Adams told the Borough Council at its Aug. 2 meeting.

“If we continue to make noise about this, something will be done,” Kalaka-Adams told the council.

Residents or business owners experiencing mail delays beyond a week can rally to the cause as well by forwarding any envelopes that held extremely late mail to her office.

Specifically, upon emptying the contents, the recipient should hold onto the postmarked envelope and mark when they actually received the piece in their home or business mailbox, Kalaka-Adams explained.

Once the mayor receives the belated postmarked envelopes at borough hall, she will forward them to the U.S. postmaster, she said.

Though she has contacted the Rumson post office about the delays, officials just seem to be “passing the buck,” the mayor said, noting that she cannot get a reasonable explanation as to why delivery to and from the borough is so tardy.

“No one has been able to give me a reason,” she said.

Residents have incurred late charges for late payments on credit accounts, she noted.

Whatever the reason, it should not be that way for Sea Bright, Kalaka-Adams said.

“We have residents that will go to another town to mail [checks],” she said.

Sea Bright residents should not have to bear the burden of late charges from creditors because they receive statements late due to delayed mail, Kalaka-Adams said.

“It starts to cost them extra money,” she said.

Both Kalaka-Adams and Corodemus believe that if Sea Bright had its own ZIP code and mail delivery without involving Rumson, mail would flow in and out of town seamlessly.

Actually, the borough does have its own ZIP, 07761, but it’s only used for internal purposes inside the Rumson post office, according to Blanca Escobar, the postmaster at that facility.

However, it is inaccurate and incomplete Sea Bright addresses, not the ZIP code, that creates slowdowns, Escobar said.

In fact, about 90 percent of the residents in Sea Bright do get their mail in a timely manner, Escobar pointed out, adding that Rumson carriers do all they can to accommodate customers in both boroughs.

Customers residing in Sea Bright’s condominium units often do not provide a unit number along with the street or complex names when they submit their addresses to utilities, banks, creditors or other parties that they do business with, Escobar said.

“It’s how people give out their own address,” Escobar said. “It has nothing to do with Rumson.”

In short, if customers living in condominiums and multiple residence complexes would provide complete information, especially a unit or apartment number, to those they expect to receive mail from, they would expedite their own service, Escobar said.

However, Corodemus disputed Escobar’s explanation, saying that even customers residing in single-family, separate homes not in condominium or apartment complexes have experienced delivery delays.

Some streets in Rumson bear the same name, or similar names, as those in Sea Bright, which both Kalaka-

Adams and Corodemus acknowledge is a problem.

“If the street names are the same, forget it,” Kalaka-Adams said.

Both municipalities have a Church Street, Center Street and Rumson Road. In addition, Rumson has River Road and Sea Bright contains a River Way and a River Street, Corodemus noted.

In addition, the four-digit extensions added to the 07760 ZIP code are not reliable either, Corodemus said.

Mostly, it’s the similarities in addresses in both towns, combined with mail found undeliverable in Rumson returning to that town’s post office before ever going to Sea Bright, that add to the two-week or more delays, Corodemus continued.

“It’s problematic with time-sensitive information,” he said.

Both Kalaka-Adams and Corodemus have recently written to U.S. Postmaster General John E. Potter in Washington to ask for a meeting with federal postal officials and a resolution.

“We’re asking for some type of relief,” said Corodemus, who wrote to Potter in June.

If the postmaster would at least consider a separate ZIP code for Sea Bright, the letters will be worthwhile, the assemblyman said.

“We don’t want to dictate solutions,” Corodemus said. “But it doesn’t seem to be too difficult to have a new ZIP code [for Sea Bright].”

A reply sent to Corodemus from the U.S. postmaster dated July 11 and signed by Pat Irons, manager of government relations response, confirmed that Sea Bright’s post office is a branch of the Rumson facility.

All mail is delivered by carriers on the day it is received at the Rumson office, Irons wrote.

“Mail destined for addresses served by the branch location does not receive delayed delivery,” Irons wrote.

Customers should retain the original packaging of any delayed mail and record the actual delivery date for review by local postal officials, Irons told Corodemus.

“Local officials may be able to determine the cause of a delay by examining marks placed on envelopes during mail processing,” Irons wrote. “Without such information, local officials cannot speculate why a specific piece of mail may have been delayed or not received.”

Inquiries made to the U.S. postmaster regarding the possibility of Sea Bright being assigned its own ZIP code were referred to George Flood, a press relations officer for the U.S. Postal Service, in Newark.

Though not aware of Sea Bright’s situation, Flood called the two-week delays cited by Kalaka-Adams and Corodemus as “egregiously horrible.”

The U.S. Postal Service has a “three-day standard” for domestic mail delivery, he explained.

Like Irons, Flood recommended that customers experiencing mail delays retain the packaging and document the date of delivery for local officials.

A new ZIP code might not resolve Sea Bright’s problem if the issue is with faulty addresses or personnel, Flood pointed out.

The U.S. postmaster does not assign new ZIP codes according to population counts, Flood said. Usually, new ZIP codes are established when a municipality’s officials lobby their postmaster for a new assignment, he added.

“ZIP codes are used for distribution and delivery of mail, not necessarily to give a community identification,” Flood said.

Flood indicated that he would be in touch with the postal service’s Central New Jersey District Affairs office to learn more about Sea Bright’s problems.

Sea Bright has approximately 1,800 residents while Rumson has slightly more than 7,137, according to the last official census, in 2000.