By The Associated Press

Kenosha News. October 30, 2022.

Editorial: New ZIP codes shouldn’t just zip through unchecked

At first blush we were delighted to see Wisconsin politicians teaming up on legislation to give residents of the villages of Caledonia, Mount Pleasant and Somers their own unique ZIP codes for mail delivery.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Congressman Bryan Steil, proposed the change as they introduced twin bills for Congress last week.

“After hearing from residents and community leaders in Racine and Kenosha County about their frustrations with mail delivery mix-ups caused by outdated ZIP code boundaries, I was pleased to work with Sen. Johnson to help,” said Steil, a Janesville Republican.

He said, “This common-sense legislation instructs USPS to simplify and modernize these boundaries, saving many Southeast Wisconsin residents from needless headaches.”

Indeed, ZIP code allocations and mailing addresses do seem counter-intuitive at times with some residents of Caledonia listing their mailing address as Racine, and some Kenosha County residents also listing Racine as their mailing address.

And we have no doubt that being able to use your own village name as your mailing address would build community pride and foster a greater sense of identity to the three growing area villages. Geographic boundaries are something we can all relate to.

But the five-digit ZIP codes that were introduced nationwide in 1963 and then enhanced in 1983 when the USPS introduced ZIP+4 codes to allow sorting by block, street or building were developed to assist in the efficient sorting and routing of mail – they were not developed with the idea of nurturing community identity.

That system has resulted in some quizzical ZIPs in the area – like the 53182 code that stretches all the way from the Town of Paris in Kenosha County, north through Union Grove and then almost to Wind Lake.

The Village of Caledonia has at least three ZIP codes and we have to wonder what will happen if they all get merged into one code that reflects the village’s boundaries.

Before Johnson and Steil’s proposal sails through Congress we would urge lawmakers to get some input from the USPS on exactly how this would be implemented – and, yes, what the cost would be. We don’t know if it would be a simple matter of reprogramming sorting machines or if it would affect actual mail routes. We would hope that it would be a simple, non-disruptive change, but Congress should look at that.

We say that because USPS has been struggling financially and last year posted a $4.9 billion net loss. That came on top of a $9.2 billion loss in 2020, according to Reuters news reports. That triggered a cost-cutting campaign that included slower delivery of some first-class mail – one-to-three day service standards were changed to one-to-five days. First class stamp prices were increased to 58 cents from 55 cents.

We like the idea of promoting community identity through single unique community ZIP codes, but before we march down that road, we want to know if we can afford it.