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By Rita Thiel
Changes in the U.S Postal Service processing have canceled the island practice of simply writing “local” on envelopes without the city, state and zip.
All mail is now being processed in Raleigh and all mail sent to local addresses must include the full address—name, P.O. box, city, state and zip code–on envelopes and packages, Celeste Brooks, Ocracoke postmaster, said on Friday.
So, residents needing to get local bills paid before a due date will have to do their payments sooner and remember that mail placed in the “Ocracoke” mail slot has an average two-day turn-around via Raleigh.
Brooks said this change occurred in February, but no official post office announcement was made.
Dated or time-sensitive mail that must be postmarked by a certain date–for example, tax returns–can still be cancelled and dated from the Ocracoke office if handed to Brooks or a postal clerk with a request for a dated stamp.
“Yes, I hate this like everybody else,” Brooks said about the change. “I have tourists who want that Ocracoke postmark. I have fought for our local box to stay open for years.”
But that’s all changed due to the postal service’s Delivery Point Sequencing system, which tracks all the mail and collects volume data, which helps determine the hours post offices are open, and the number of staff employed. The DPS system allows customers to track when bills will arrive.
This postal service-wide change has occurred across the nation over the past few years, fading out the small, localized districts for mail processing.
Although small districts, such as Ocracoke, were given a grace period to implement the changes, that grace period has ended.
These changes are all about saving money and improving efficiency.
“We are run as a business, and with a business, it’s all about visibility and full disclosure,” Brooks said. “In times past, when we got mail through the local slot, it was processed here, but Ocracoke didn’t get credit for that piece of mail.
“The volume of mail we actually handled was not accounted for, and that meant our location wasn’t getting accurate official counting (volume control) which determines the number of hours we remain open.”
Many postal offices are open only four or six hours each day, but the Ocracoke office is open for eight hours.
Brooks said Ocracoke’s weekly mail volume averages 7,500 to 10,000 pieces of mail (including 600 to 800 packages.) Local addresses account for an average of 2,500 pieces weekly.
Holidays and special occasions cause a substantial increase in these numbers. These local numbers add up quickly and would not be credited to the Ocracoke district if not processed through Raleigh.