Press-Republican

March 26, 2014

Wrong mail truck delays tax payments

By ELIZABETH REFF, Contributing Writer
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — When Charlie Scott opened his mail on Feb. 4, he did not expect to find the tax payments that he had mailed out days before.

Enclosed were letters from Beekmantown Tax Collector Kelly LaFountain, telling him that payments made after Jan. 31 were considered late and would result in penalty fees.

But Scott, who lives in Beekmantown, had handed those two envelopes to a mail carrier on Jan. 31, and that person had brought them to the Plattsburgh Post Office.

They should have been postmarked that very day, he said.

“I pay my taxes on time every year,” he said.

WRONG TRUCK

As it turned out, the U.S. Postal Service took responsibility for the delay in postmarking Scott’s envelopes.

On Jan. 31, a container of raw mail headed for Albany from Plattsburgh was accidentally put on a truck going to Springfield, Mass., instead, U.S. Postal Service regional spokeswoman Maureen Marion said.

When the error was discovered, she said, it was immediately sent to Albany.

“It arrived (in Albany) at 6 or 7 in the morning Saturday, Feb. 1st,” Marion said.

And that’s when it was postmarked.

Marion said that, normally, outgoing mail at the Plattsburgh Post Office is trucked to Albany and postmarked there between 3 and 4 p.m. the same day, she said. And the next day, the mail is sent back to Plattsburgh to be delivered.

“We know it was a mistake,” she said. “We hope that this will never happen again.”

TAX COLLECTOR INVESTIGATES

Just about a year ago, the Postal Service closed the Mail Processing Center on Veterans Lane in the City of Plattsburgh, saying it would save money to have the mail trucked to Albany instead.

Locals had worried about delayed delivery due to the extra distance the mail would have to travel.

Now, Scott didn’t know what happened, but he tried to explain to the tax collector that his payments should have been postmarked Jan. 31 — to no avail, it seemed.

“(The tax collectors) are not going to do anything other than go by the postmark,” he said. “It’s an obvious problem.”

However, Marion said, the tax collector contacted the U.S. Postal Service about Scott and others who had mailed their payments on Jan. 31 and had the same problem.

LaFountain could not be reached for comment. But her email prompted Frank Raso, the manager of the Postal Service’s marketing at the Albany District Processing Center, to contact Scott.

POSTAL APOLOGY

Raso explained what had happened and sent him a letter of apology.

Scott then wrote a letter to LaFountain, telling her about the mail error and submitted his tax payments again, including Raso’s apology.

He said they were accepted and the fine removed.

Scott said he would do whatever he could to make sure that this doesn’t happen to him again.

“I will not just send (the tax payments) out with the carrier,” he said. “I will go to the front desk of the post office to send them.”

He said he was concerned for others affected by the Postal Service error as well.

“There are a lot of people who pay property taxes in this town,” Scott said. “I hope they know what’s going on.”