Millville looks to unify 19967 zip code

More than 21 citizens of Millville currently reside in postal limbo. They live in areas that were once outside the town’s boundaries, and its related postal designation: 19967. But they’ve since been annexed into the town.

Millville/Ocean View Postmaster Lucy Strauss would like to be able to deliver their mail through her office, and a unified 19967 ZIP code. And Millville Town Manager Linda Collins agrees, wanting a unified 19967 ZIP code to serve the entire town as it exists today, plus its future residents. The change would simplify identification of properties and residents as citizens of the town, she has said.

Collins had recently appealed to the U.S. Postal Service’s New Jersey regional office to make that move toward unification, but she told council members at their June 26 workshop that her request had been denied.

With 21 surveys sent by the Postal Service in recent months to the various 19945 and 19970 addresses that are currently within Millville’s boundaries, all it would have taken was a majority of positive responses for unification under the 19967 ZIP code to gain the agreement of the Postal Service. But, instead, only nine surveys were even returned, with six of them opposing the change and only three favoring it.

Strauss said the decision by the Postal Service, which is usually perfunctory in such cases, was based solely on the lack of responses in this case — a majority of the surveys sent out.

“I’m not exactly sure where to take it from here,” Strauss told the Millville Town Council on Tuesday.

In the end, Strauss recommended the town ask the Postal Service to resurvey the residents and possibly consider additional properties that were not included in the first survey. And she recommended the town work to share information with the residents in question so that they will better understand the benefits of the change.

Strauss identified a problem that not only complicates life for the affected residents and the town, in terms of identifying who is really a resident of incorporated Millville and not of neighboring Ocean View (19970) or Frankford (19945), but also causes headaches for postal workers.

At least 10 of those 21 addresses had been designated with 19945 ZIP codes, which is serviced by the Frankford post office and its carriers, from a post office that — instead of being just down the street — is 10 miles away.

Further complicating the situation, according to Strauss, is the recent move by Sussex County to readdress unincorporated areas of the county under the new 911 emergency standard. Some of the properties in question apparently received notification from county officials that their addresses should be changed to the 19970 ZIP code.

“I’m not sure the district is aware that a lot of them were already notified by 911 to change their addresses,” Strauss said, noting that the result in some cases was delivery problems wherein neither the Millville/Ocean View post office nor the Frankford post office could deliver mail to the addresses.

“It’s possible they might have decided they didn’t want to change (their addresses) again,” Strauss said of those residents and the negative responses on the surveys.

Strauss recommended the town try to communicate to those affected what the goals were in trying to get all of Millville unified under a 19967 ZIP code “for the town’s best interests going into the future.”

“The people I spoke to liked it,” Strauss said of her in-person interactions with some of those affected.

Growth could leave other ZIPs isolated

Strauss also recommended the town invite New Jersey-based Postal Service officials to come see the situation in person, to give them a better feel for the challenges involved.

Collins pointed to the town’s planned growth as one factor in trying to get all of its citizens under one postal umbrella.

With about 4,000 homes planned to be built over the next 10 to 20 years in the Millville By the Sea community and the Dove Barrington and Dove’s Landing communities nearby, existing properties with 19945 and 19970 ZIP codes would become islands inside the town. Strauss said she had been told new communities in Millville would all get 19967 ZIP codes, though she was still apprehensive about that happening.

“The existing properties are the problem,” Strauss emphasized.

Among properties that were not surveyed but which may need to be included, Strauss said, are those on the southwest side of Roxana Road, and possibly others.

The postmaster said she had reviewed the documents detailing the 1987-1988 consolidation of the Ocean View and Millville post offices in Millville, and the documents were clear that any additional growth in the immediate vicinity of Millville was to be included in the service area of the 19967 area code.

Strauss said the postal coverage maps are difficult to read, even for someone like herself, who is familiar with them. She, along with Council Member Joan Bennett, said it could be that seeing in person the planned expansion of the town’s residential area, along with the isolated pockets of non-19967 ZIP codes, could help sway Postal Service higher-ups toward resurveying and reconsidering a unified ZIP code for Millville.

Centralized delivery annex planned

With impending growth also to be covered, Strauss noted that she had requested an additional clerk to serve the Millville/Ocean View area three years ago but had not yet had that request granted. She said increases in delivery over the years — which will continue — generally produces an increase in staffing, according to Postal Service calculations.

“I was told I’d have a new building here eight years ago,” Strauss also noted, “but it never materialized.”

Indeed, as recently as the summer of 2005, meetings and discussions were still under way as to where the Millville/Ocean View post office might move and expand. Undeveloped lots were targeted as possibilities and local citizens brainstormed as to what locations could handle the traffic and space needs of a rapidly expanding postal service area.

In fact, Millville By the Sea developers the Millville Group had offered the Postal Service two parcels on their property on which a new postal facility could be located. The offer was turned down, Millville Group’s Al Ruble put in on Tuesday, noting they also preferred a unified postal code for the town.

Funding for the anticipated expansion has since evaporated.

Instead, Strauss said, the Postal Service has decided to separate carrier and sorting functions from retail functions, planning now to move nearly all of the area’s carriers to a centralized sorting and delivery annex in unincorporated Roxana, while keeping retail offices in Millville and Selbyville.

Carriers servicing Millville, Ocean View, Selbyville, Frankford and Dagsboro ZIP codes will work out of the new Roxana facility, while clerks will offer retail services directly to customers in Millville and Selbyville locations. Strauss said the fate of the Frankford and Dagsboro post offices was not yet known to her.

Meanwhile, she’d like the Millville residents who still have 19945 and 19970 ZIP codes to reconsider the benefits of coming in under the 19967 umbrella.

“One ZIP code for one town clears things up,” she said.