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This one small CT town has 6 ZIP codes, causing confusion. Congress may have a solution

Scotland, Conn. is split between six ZIP codes, which residents of the small town say causes confusion and logistical challenges.
Carol M. Highsmith
/
Library of Congress
Scotland, Conn., is split among six ZIP codes. Residents say that causes confusion and logistical challenges in the small town in eastern Connecticut.

The town of Scotland has about 1,500 residents – and six ZIP codes.

And that’s created all sorts of issues in the eastern Connecticut town: Lost mail. School zoning confusion. Voter registration hiccups. Incomplete vital statistics.

Frustrated town officials are now turning to Congress for help.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney are joining forces to address the ZIP code mish-mash. They’ve introduced legislation in Congress to unify the town under one ZIP code.

“In a town this small, that many ZIP codes leads to some pretty serious problems,” Murphy said during a Friday press conference on the town green. “Packages that are delayed for days. Residents who have trouble filing official documents. Tax payments that become unnecessarily overdue. Even schoolchildren who sometimes end up going to the wrong school.”

Or as Courtney, who represents Scotland, put it: “It’s almost comical. I mean, you could do a Monty Python skit.”

Gary Greenberg recently retired as Scotland First Selectman. He said not a week went by during his time in office without constituents coming to Town Hall with problems stemming from the converging ZIP codes.

To complicate matters more, the ZIP codes aren’t just within Scotland town limits: they extend to neighboring towns. For instance, some Scotland residents have a mailing address for the neighboring town of Hampton.

Greenberg recalls one comical example, “the couple who came to town who thought they were moving to Hampton – they were from the north of England and said that they never would have moved to a town called Scotland.”

But beyond incidents inconveniencing individual residents, having so many ZIP codes complicates the business of local government.

“Public health statistics, aggregate income tax, unemployment, household income – any statistics that sort by ZIP code, which is an awful lot, are wildly inaccurate and, at best, useless,” for Scotland, Greenberg said.

He says it’s a burden on small-town government.

“Like all small-town governments, we hang on by our fingernails,” Greenberg said.

Despite hours of trying, town officials had been unsuccessful in seeking help from the United States Postal Service, he said.

“They can’t or won’t fix the problem, which is why, with the help of Sen. Murphy and Rep. Courtney, we’re making a federal case,” he said.

Murphy said there’s also a symbolic reason for unifying under one ZIP code.

“ZIP codes become part of your identity,” Murphy said. “Everybody knows the five numbers of the ZIP code of the town that they grew up in.”

Murphy said ZIP codes “provide a sense of cohesion, a sense of identity, a sense of continuity.”

“So when you get a small town with a close-knit community but six different ZIP codes, it doesn’t help the effort to try to facilitate that kind of cohesion that a small community wants,” he said.

Murphy said Congress has previously taken up legislation to unify towns from multiple ZIP codes to one, so there’s precedent for the bill he’s introduced alongside Courtney.

“It’ll make life easier for people here in town,” he said, “and we’re hopeful to get it across the finish line.”

Chris Polansky joined Connecticut Public in March 2023 as a general assignment and breaking news reporter based in Hartford. Previously, he’s worked at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, as a general assignment reporter; Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, Pa., as an anchor and producer for All Things Considered; and at Public Radio Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., where he both reported and hosted Morning Edition.