Advance Letter Trouble In St. Louis: Cities and Zip Codes Mixed and Mangled
Below are important highlights from an article on STLToday.com:
Advance letters from the U.S. Census Bureau are causing confusion in parts of the St. Louis area that share common ZIP codes.
But census officials said Tuesday that residents and municipal leaders shouldn’t be worried, the information will be correct on the forms, which are set to start arriving Monday.
The one-page notes that residents received this week say the census forms are coming. The notes are part of an $85 million mailing effort to encourage the sending back of the forms. But some of the letters listed incorrect city names, prompting residents and officials to worry about the accuracy of the count.
After the official census forms arrive, reminder postcards will be sent to areas with low responses, said Shelly Lowe, a spokeswoman for the Census Bureau’s national office.
Some residents of O’Fallon and St. Peters received letters with the correct address and ZIP code, but the wrong city name — Cottleville. Cottleville residents are served by some of the same ZIP codes.
Drabelle said the city received at least 20 calls from residents who were concerned about the city name error.
Lisa Bedian, a spokeswoman for St. Peters, reported a similar number of calls. Part of St. Peters borders Cottleville, she said, but some of the residents who called about their letters lived several miles from the border.
“People are worried about whether St. Peters is going to get credit for this,” Bedian said.
She said the city was asking residents to call if they received an incorrect city name on their letters. She said that residents need not leave their names, but that the city was collecting addresses to get a sense of where the letters were sent.
In St. Louis County, some Maryland Heights residents received letters addressed to Hazelwood. The city’s website told residents they would be counted as living in Maryland Heights. Sara Berry, a city spokeswoman, said the city had received a handful of calls.
“We’re trying to get the word out as best we can and let people know to go ahead and fill out their forms,” she said.
Dennis Johnson, a spokesman with the regional office in Kansas City, said an outside contractor prepared the letters using postal data. The city name on the letter will have no effect on the official census form, he said. Johnson said the official census forms had a bar code with information about exactly where the residence was situated. He said the Census Bureau had been working with city and county officials to make sure addresses were accurate.
“It’s not going to affect the population count,” Johnson said. “They will be tabulated properly for each jurisdiction.”
Scott Hanson, city planner in Edwardsville, said his city had had technicians review data from the census to make sure it included recently annexed properties. “We’re keeping a close eye on that,” he said.
The letters generated controversy in 2000, too. That year, they included return envelopes for those who wanted to receive census forms in another language, but no English explanation was printed on the envelope.