Due to postal service changes, newspaper deliveries may be delayed

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

If it seems like it's been taking longer for you to receive your newspaper in the mail lately, you're not alone.

The U.S. Postal Service implemented a 24-piece periodical sack rule that went into effect May 11.

While Daily Sentinel subscribers residing in the towns of Le Mars, Remsen, Oyens, Brunsville, and Merrill receive their newspaper from carriers, others receive it through the mail.

If you receive your paper through the mail and live in a vicinity which has fewer than 24 subscribers, your newspaper delivery may be delayed.

Each day, before the Daily Sentinel is mailed to you, it is sorted and bundled into carrier route sacks. Sometimes it is bundled by five-digit zip code. If there aren't enough papers going to a certain zip code, the bundle is then merged into a sack which has three digits.

"Previously, the minimum number of pieces we could put into a carrier route sack was six," explains Daily Sentinel publisher Tom Stangl. "They would even make an exception where we could have only one or two pieces inside a sack."

"They would be all sorted and ready to go," he contends.

"But now, the Postal Service requires us to have at least 24 pieces in the sack," he says. "This has meant more work for us and more work for them."

The sacks are then delivered either to a Sectional Center Facility (SCF), which, in our case would be the Sioux City Post Office, or on to an Area Distribution Center (ADC) in Des Moines or Omaha.

What that means is the post office will now have bigger sacks with bigger bundles of newspapers.

"The Postal Service's reasoning behind the change was to eliminate the number of bags that we have to deal with," says Nancy Steckley of the U.S. Post Office In Sioux City. "But, so far, that hasn't been the case."

Before the newspapers can reach their destination, she explains, they must be pre-sorted by hand.

"Materials that had previously been sorted right on the docks must go through a longer process," Steckley. "I don't think anybody anticipated that would be the case."

Newspapers had less than three months to implement steps that would minimize potential problems that delivery outside of key zip codes would bring.

"We were also given very little time to implement the change," Steckley adds. "We are still trying to work out the kinks in the system."

The National Newspaper Association has filed strong comments of concern about the new law.

But the changes have already affected service.

"There are presently no measurement or service standards when it comes to periodical deliveries," Stangl said. "The sad thing is that it's out of our hands. Delivery outside of Plymouth County may take two days or it may take two weeks. There is nothing we can do."

Congress has shown interest in requiring service standards and the NNA has joined the campaign to urge that some accountability should be set (and enforced).

"On the Opinion Page of the Sentinel, we always include the names, addresses, and phone numbers of lawmakers," Stangl says, "We encourage our subscribers to contact their Congressman or Senator in order to have your voice heard."

Stangl also asks subscribers to understand these delays are due to changes in the postal policies and to be patient while the kinks are being worked out.

"We'll do everything on our part to ensure you get your news in a timely fashion," he says.

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