Plenty of postal problems ahead of Petrolia switch

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Petrolia’s post office will be off limits this weekend as contractors change locks on post office boxes in preparation of a change to municipal addressing.

Starting May 16, residents will no longer use their post office box number to direct mail to their homes, instead they are to use their municipal address – a method one Canada Post official said was “more intuitive” than post box numbers which have been used for decades in Petrolia.

Along with the change, every resident will get a new mail box number where they are to pick up their mail.

In a report to council Monday, Deputy Clerk Mandi Pearson says a number of residents have called town hall “to express their concerns” including the lack of notice from Canada Post or a public meeting explaining the changes. The report indicates the town has also heard from businesses and has its own concerns about the cost to change stationary to remove post office box numbers.

“For our property tax bills we send out, we will have to remove the Post Office Box numbers and ensure the correct street address is inputted to our financial system,” say Pearson in the report. “We have over 2,300 accounts.”

Pearson adds the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation will also have to receive all the new postal information to make sure its information gets to the right spot “This process will be an extreme administrative burden,” she writes.

Pearson adds Victoria Playhouse Petrolia will also face problems contacting some of its 30,000 patrons.

And ironically, on Monday, the town had a piece of mail returned by Canada Post because it didn’t have the right postal box number, she says.

Councillor Ross O’Hara is one person frustrated by the change. Before learning of the change, he ordered new cheques with the post office box number on it, O’Hara told council.

Councillor Liz Welsh tried several times, through several different means to reach Canada Post to get some answers after hearing from residents. She never did get to talk to a person.

Treasurer Rick Charlebois was able to reach Canada  Post’s manager of municipal engagement, Andy Paterson, who agreed to meet with members of council May 11 about the changes. “Apparently, they were not aware of the impact it would have.”

Charlebois added Canada Post may extend the free mail forwarding feature from one year to 18 months when it meets with town officials Wednesday.

Charlebois says the official told him the change to municipal addresses was a nation-wide initiative which was legislated by the federal government several years ago.

Aside from the meeting with Canada Post, council asked staff to write a letter to the minister in charge of Canada Post to express councils concerns about the process.

Councillor Joel Field is pleased with the move but is concerned the staff at the local post office is bearing the brunt of the criticism for the move. He watched one man become “very animated and very vocal” with the staff because he was “convinced they had orchestrated the changes.”

Councillor Welsh also expressed concern but added “Then Canada Post should have signed their own letter not signed it the Petrolia Post Office.”

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