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Mail changes cause bills to be paid late



As Letcher Countians now know from experience, it’s not unusual for rural mail to be shipped to processing centers in metropolitan areas (Knoxville, Tenn., in our case) even if the center is located in the opposite direction of the mail’s final destination.

It is now becoming clear that the U.S. Postal Service’s closing of some offices and reducing hours at others has put a heavier burden on the remaining sorting centers and opened the door for errors.

For example, people are blaming the Postal Service’s error for about 400 residents in the western Kentucky town of Providence receiving $3,315 in late water bills, Matt Hughes reports for The Journal-Enterprise, the local weekly newspaper there.

Paul Lashbrook, water district superintendent for the Webster County Water District, told Hughes, “We send out over 2,000 water bills per month. Because of changes to the postal system, everything goes from the local post office to Evansville, Ind., and then comes back to the local post office.” (Evansville is about 50 miles north of Providence.)

“When the bills went out in early November, something went wrong,” Hughes writes. “Hundreds of customers who had always paid on time were suddenly late making their payments. Even as the district sent out late/shutoff notices to customers, they began getting bills back in the mail. Many of them were crumpled, dirty and damaged. Others that were supposed to be delivered to customers here in the county had been postmarked in places as far away as Texas.”

Lashbrook said all late fees were waived.

USPS spokesman David Walton in Louisville blamed the mistake on a paper jam. He told Hughes, “Those water bills got jammed up in a machine. It does happen.”

— Source: UK Center for Rural Journalism and Community Affairs



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