Although the United States Postal Service (USPS) often blames financial losses and manpower cuts on email and at home meters, the USPS continues to show that there are much deeper issues facing the 243 year-old organization.

Recent lost utility bills and returned mail in Clay are a reminder of a local USPS issue from 2014 that caught attention state and even nation-wide.

That story made it all the way to Congress after the postal service misplaced an entire month’s shipment of water bills from the Webster County Water District. When it was discovered that the bills had fallen off of a belt at the USPS’ sortation facility in Evansville, the district was nice enough to waive all late fees for that bill.

But they didn’t have to.

In pretty much every case, the fine print of the contract you sign with a utility company, credit card company or basically anyone who sends you a bill, states that the company is not responsible for lost statements, meaning you have to pay your bill even if it never comes.

That is also true in Clay, where a number of utility bills have gone missing in recent months.

Clay city clerk Christy Freeman told the council last week that the first sign of trouble was when one local resident who always paid their utility bill “like clockwork” was added to the monthly shutoff list.

That customer later came into the city office with their statement. Their check had been properly signed, sealed and mailed far ahead of the deadline. After the payment’s due date, it was returned, marked as “undeliverable”, despite everything on the envelope being in order.

If it were just the one time,  it probably would have been forgotten, but this was not the end of postal issues for the city.

Freeman said that as many as nine utility bills had been returned to the city, all marked as “undeliverable.” Each bill had the proper mailing address and postage.

It was also reported that another group of bills had gone out of the Clay Post Office, passed through the sortation facility and were then delivered to the post office in Baskett, Kentucky in rural Henderson County and were “just sitting there.”

Freeman told the council that she had recently gotten another properly addressed bill back, also stamped “undeliverable.” That one was mailed in February but not returned to the city until May.

But perhaps the most astounding issue was when a city employee mailed a payment from the city to the Clay Post Office. Freeman said the city usually hand delivers that bill, but on this particular day the city staff was busy and decided to send it out with the mail.

The payment to the post office was returned several weeks later stamped “undeliverable.”

In order for this time happen, the bill had to go from the city building, into the mail picked up by the mail carrier. It then went to the Clay Post Office across the street. From there it was shipped to the USPS facility in Evansville, where it was sent back to the Clay Post Office. Someone at the office then had to pick the envelope up and put it into the city’s P.O. Box.

Freeman said the Clay Post Office clerk is trying to get local mail back into the local post office, although with the USPS shifting to regional sortation across the country, that seems unlikely.

 

Reach MATT HUGHES

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