Mayor moves to win back postmark

Cost-cutting measure by Postal Service miffs many in capital

January 27, 1999|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

The mayor of Annapolis was miffed.

A symbol of identity had been taken from his grand city, that hallmark of all things Maryland, while no one was looking. No city with a 350-year history should have to stand for such an outrage.

Dean L. Johnson didn't. He picked up the phone yesterday and called the post office.

What so inflamed the mayor was a simple postmark. Several weeks ago, the city's postmaster began sending Annapolis-to-Annapolis mail to Baltimore for automated processing. That cost the state capital its postmark, not a big deal to most, but gargantuan to Annapolitans.

"Washington, D.C., and Albany have their own postmarks," said longtime Annapolitan Minor Carter. "Annapolis being of equal stature to those capitals, we at least deserve our own postmark."

Irene Lericos, a Postal Service spokeswoman, said residents technically never lost their postmark. They can still get an Annapolis imprint by taking their letters to the post office for stamping at the counter.

She said the Annapolis postmaster began sending mail from 10 "Annapolis only" mailboxes to Baltimore to cut costs and increase efficiency. Automatically sorted mail costs $5 per thousand letters to process, compared with $45 per thousand for sorting and stamping by hand.

Switching processing centers didn't hurt Annapolis' overnight delivery rate. At 94 percent, it's higher than the national average of 93 percent, Lericos said.

None of that appeases irate Annapolitans.

"We are the capital city of Maryland," said city spokesman Thomas W. Roskelly. "We are 350 years old this year, which makes us older than the Postal Service."

Postal Service historian Meg Ausman conceded that her institution has been around for only 223 years.

"Ben Franklin was in Annapolis before there was a Postal Service," said Johnson, "and many consider him the grandfather of the Postal Service. I was upset because it's the 350th anniversary of our settlement and it's just one of those items that creates a special identification that is Annapolis."

After the mayor's calls to senior officials in Washington, three Postal Service officials rushed from Baltimore to City Hall yesterday. They apologized, Johnson said, and vowed that the estimated 3,000 letters collected daily in designated Annapolis mailboxes will get Annapolis postmarks by the end of the week.

Pub Date: 1/27/99

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