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Some Columbus residents are worried bills and cards were lost in mail over holidays

Missing utility bills, fewer Christmas cards than normal during the holiday season and outgoing mail left in the mail box for days have some Columbus residents concerned about the U.S. Postal Service here.

Although a postal official said there were no widespread delays in mail service, a St. Elmo-Weracoba resident said she noticed something amiss about three months ago while a downtown Historic District homeowner said she never received two credit cards bills during a two-month period that could have cost her huge late fees.

“My complaint is what mail have I missed,” said a 71-year-old Weracoba resident. “I get Christmas cards and only got about six this year but usually get 20 to 25 cards.”

Bill Stephenson, the new postmaster who arrived in August, said Columbus was caught up by Christmas on everything and didn’t experience delays some cities face during the holidays. With the Postal Service handling hundreds and millions of pieces of mail, the postmaster said it makes him think there was an issue with the bar code companies use or there may have been an extra drop of ink to mess up the code.

“It is so automated it doesn’t take anything to send a letter that should be coming here to somewhere in California,” Stephenson said of the coding. “If it’s an automated issue, it could loop for weeks like that until someone catches it. “

“We had what we call a pretty good peak season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s for Columbus,” he said. “We kept up with everything pretty well and really didn’t have anything with delayed mail like some of the other larger towns sometime do during that same period of time.”

All mail in the Columbus area goes out of the 3916 Milgen Road facility. It manages 115 routes, handling hundreds or thousands of pieces of mail everyday. All mail is processed in Macon and returns to Columbus even if it’s mailed here.

Anyone who has an issue with mail service should visit the Milgen Road office and talk to a supervisor. Having your zip code will help direct questions to an appropriate supervisor. “We have an inquiry form if we need to do more digging to find out if there is some other issue going on,” Stephenson said.

Residents with questions may also take concerns to Stephenson, he said. If you call the office, there isn’t a good number available but officials are working to change that.

“The number you call, it is just ringing and no one ever hears them,” he said. “We are working on trying to establish a good number for people to call.”

In the meantime, the Weracoba resident said she goes through her check book searching for bills that might be due but didn’t arrive yet. “I haven’t got that one,” she said. “Finally, it might come.”

Stephenson wants to assure residents that the city has leadership in the mail service and he wants to improve customer service. Mail is not stacked up waiting to be moved like people may think in the day-to-day operation. “Columbus is notorious for not good customer service,” he said. “That is something we are definitely trying to change.”

The mail service is still important for many folks who steer away from computers and online payment services. I think that probably increases the need for accurate and timely service.

If you’ve seen something that needs attention, give me a call at 706-571-8576.

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