With residents split on ZIP code change, Whately Select Board seeks more info

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 07-17-2023 12:35 PM

WHATELY — After hearing from a nearly even-split community at its public forum, the Selectboard is seeking additional information from the U.S. Postal Service before making any movement on changing the town’s ZIP code.

As the Selectboard explores changing the entire town over to the 01093 ZIP code, Chair Fred Baron said they will stick with the “status quo” for now, as the public forum did not provide a clear consensus on what direction residents wanted to move.

Additionally, he said the lack of a Post Office representative at the June 29 forum — an absence noted both by town officials and residents that evening — left a gap in some parts of the discussion.

“[The forum] was very useful,” Baron said, “but not as useful as it could have been because there was no Post Office representative there, which certainly left a lot of questions unanswered.”

Over the last several months, the town has been looking at possibly changing all of Whately over to the 01093 ZIP code, which currently only serves the center of town. The major focus of the change is based on South Deerfield’s 01373 ZIP Code, which serves a large portion of Whately, including neighborhoods like River Road. West Whately also has a separate ZIP code, but problems are less common.

Lynn Sibley, a longtime municipal employee who has served as town clerk, treasurer/collector and town administrator, previously explained the use of the South Deerfield ZIP code has caused challenges with mail and package deliveries, excise tax bills, voter registration and several other processes tied to ZIP codes. In May, Sibley said the event that triggered the potential ZIP code change was the rejection of dozens of excise tax bills meant for Deerfield residents that somehow defaulted to Whately due to ZIP code-related issues.

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Reporting to his fellow Selectboard members after attending the forum, Baron said his main takeaways were that the town is pretty much split on both sides of changing the ZIP code, but more importantly, people want the Post Office adjacent to Town Hall to remain open.

“There was a lot of passion on the subject, but there is certainly no clear consensus,” Baron said, adding that most folks felt it “would not be worth it to make any kind of change if it would result in the closing of the Whately Post Office.”

Selectboard member Joyce Palmer-Fortune, however, said a possible closing of the Post Office is likely a separate issue from the ZIP code discussion because “we can make any decision and they can close the Post Office.”

Town Administrator Brian Domina said most of the town’s communication with the Postal Service has been through U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern’s office and a more direct approach might be conducive to getting a Postal Service employee to speak with the town and residents.

“I think we need to push harder with the USPS,” Domina said.

As it stands, the Selectboard opted to take no action on changing the ZIP code until it receives more information about the process and what possible effects changing the ZIP code might bring.

“I think we need more information than we currently have,” Baron said. “Given the division in the community, I’d rather for now stay with the status quo until we get more information, rather than push through something that has unintended consequences.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.

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