Addressing the problem
Unannounced U.S. Postal Service policy hits home for Westsider
Where do you live?
Dave Hughes isn't sure anymore. For 29 years, he and his family have owned their house at 6 N. 24th St., with a rear rental cottage at 6 ½ N. 24th that likely dates back to before Colorado City was annexed by Colorado Springs.
But when his latest tenant put in a change of address for 6 ½, the U.S. Postal Service told her she couldn't have that address. In fact, her address, at least for the time being, is also 6, the U.S. Postal Service decreed.
This infuriated Hughes, who, marched down to City Hall and stated his case to City Council Jan. 25. Coincidentally, the long- time Westside civic and business leader already had been researching the matter of retroactive readdressing - based on anonymous information from postal workers. He had initially been disturbed about it as a historian, noting that the Westside has hundreds of addresses with halves and three-quarters and that these are part of its quaint history and shouldn't be changed without public knowledge or input.
In a written document, released to City Council and the media, he charged, “I have learned that a secret, unannounced agreement has been reached between the Colorado Springs Fire Department and the U.S. Postal Office in Colorado Springs to arbitrarily and capriciously eliminate all partial addresses on the Westside of Colorado Springs, assigning completely new addresses according to some unrevealed scheme.”
At the meeting, Mayor Lionel Rivera said he had not heard of such a thing and even expressed skepticism, suggesting that Hughes was believing “rumors.” Hughes retorted that, “as an old West Pointer, I did my homework.”
Following up on the issue, the Westside Pioneer was unable to answer all its questions - largely due to an unreturned phone call from the Postal Service before press deadline - but was able to confirm at least part of Hughes' allegations: The Postal Service in the past two years has indeed begun implementing a policy of getting rid of addresses containing fractions such as ½ or ¾.
This was verified by Cindy Mauro of the U.S. Postal Service, who elaborated that this policy is implemented whenever there is a change of residence at such an address.
“We're trying to give better service to people in the event of an emergency,” she said. “We're not trying to inconvenience anybody.”
Mauro said that there have been about 30 such changes in the past two years, including 5 in Old Colorado City. She said she could provide examples of those changes; however, she did not get back to the Pioneer with those examples by press deadline.
As for the Fire Department, Deputy Fire Marshal Kris Cooper said the department's focus is making sure that future development has consistent addressing - which is partly defined as not having fractions.
Cooper said his department has pushed for “only a couple” of retroactive address changes - egregious cases of duplicate or unclear numbers. He denied Fire Department involvement in the “secret, unannounced agreement” Hughes had alleged, or even knowing that the Postal Service has been changing numbers.
“We're not going around town looking for addresses to change,” Cooper said. “We do not have the time, the staff or the budget to take it on.”
Also investigating the matter this week was County Commissioner Sallie Clark, who is also a Westside resident and businesswoman. Clark spoke with the El Paso-Teller 911 board of directors. This group, too, was unaware of the Postal Service doing retroactive readressing, she said.
“It sounds like the Postal Service is going through without notifying people, and that's a public safety concern,” Clark said.
It cannot be said that communication channels have not been open. Over the past two years, the Postal Service has been meeting regularly with city and county staff people to discuss implementation of the policy Cooper described. The meetings have generally been held at the Regional Building Department office, according to Leslie Gruen, spokesperson for Regional Building. The committee, informally called the multi-agency addressing committee, consists of staffers from Regional Building's Enumerations Division, the Police Department, Fire Department, 911, Colorado Springs Utilities and the County Assessor's Office, as well as the Postal Service.
The Fire Department initiated the meetings based on its addressing concerns, Gruen said. She noted that her office had the same understanding as the Fire Department did - that the addressing policy was for new structures, not existing ones. Also, she did not see how the Postal Service could change addresses on its own. Under Regional Building policy, if for some reason an address change is desired, the owner of the property gets to appeal it through the department, she said.
City Councilman Larry Small, who is a liaison to Regional Building, said he had not heard of the address-change effort.
Another factor in the issue is that the Assessor's Office, which maintains the property database, does not have computer software capable of showing addresses with fractions. Hughes' 6 ½ N. 24th St., for example, is not listed in the Assessor's database. It only appears as a second building under 6 N. 24th. Rick Van Dyke, Assessor's graphic information systems manager, said that one of the goals of the office is to upgrade the software so that it can recognize fractions.
He added that he knew the post office has been wanting to retroactively change fraction addresses, but, because of his database's shortcomings, was unaware of specifics in its taking place. In any event, he did not see the purpose of such changes. “If they've had '½' in their addresses for 50 years, why change it now?” he asked.
History may have been changing without anyone realizing it. A review of a 1959 address directory for Colorado Springs showed a total of 34 addresses with fractions in the three main blocks of Old Colorado City. An informal walk-through of those same blocks this week revealed fewer than 10.
By a City Council consensus, the matter was turned over to the City Manager's Office to investigate and report back at some point in the future.
Westside Pioneer article