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A Town Without ZIP Code

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

For years, the residents of one southern Saratoga County town have found themselves been between a rock and a hard place — a place out-of-towners have had trouble finding.

"The People here in Halfmoon know how significant that five-digit ZIP code can be, and why it means so much more than just postage."  That's U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, speaking Wednesday in the lobby of Halfmoon Town Hall (which he noted has a Clifton Park address), called it "problematic" that the town of 22,000 residents is split between four different ZIP codes.   "You need to put your address as Clifton Park or Waterford or Mechanicville or Round Lake. The lack of a ZIP code has led to significant confusion, lost revenue, and it even affects emergency response."

Schumer explained a unified zip code would eliminate confusion when 911 calls come in, when someone is trying to get a GPS reading, or trying to pinpoint the location of a business or residence. But there's more: Clifton Park-Halfmoon Volunteer Fire Department Chief Art Hunsinger says no ZIP code means the town is missing out on grant money.   "We also deal with funding that we receive from the state in order to be able to provide some specialties to the firefighters. It's called two percent money. And when we do that report we have to break that down by ZIP code and town and street. And if we can't give an accurate number or any of the fire departments in the town can't give an accurate breakdown, some of that money could be going to other fire districts."

State Senator Kathy Marchione says a unique zip code will give town residents their own identity.   "I was supervisor here in 1990 to 1994 and I can tell you that before I was supervisor, with the previous supervisor and our good friend Judd Morris, they worked so hard at trying to give Halfmoon its own identity."

As did state Senator Hugh Farley. But until now, the idea seemed out of reach. Schumer says the post office can easily assign Halfmoon its own ZIP code, and the timing couldn't be better:   "The postal service needs congress for all kinds of things, particularly now that they're re-organizing. When I see the new postmaster general, the new U.S. postmaster, I'm going to put this at the top of my list."

Schumer is asking postal authorities to initiate what's called a ZIP code boundary review process — immediately.  "Halfmoon is one of the fastest growing towns in Saratoga County, not only in terms of population, but also in terms of commercial activity, and the lack of a unique ZIP code is holding the town back."

Town officials say if Schumer follows through and gets his way, there'll be no holding back.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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