ZIP code ties with the city are upheld

Anne Arundel residents said zones proved costly

September 17, 2000|By Robert F. Patrick | Robert F. Patrick,SUN STAFF

The ZIP code ties of Brooklyn Park and Orchard Beach to Baltimore will not be dissolved, the U.S. Postal Service has decreed - but Del. John R. Leopold vows to continue a 15-year quest for a change in their numeric identities.

Residents of the Anne Arundel County areas have complained for years about postally muddled community identity, delivery confusion and higher auto insurance rates that they believe result from having a city ZIP.

"For some people, it's a petty thing," said Woody Bowen, vice president of the Olde Brooklyn Park Improvement Association, "but try to battle your insurance company ... or direct someone to find your community."

Michael Murphy of Memphis, Tenn., the Postal Service's chief of address management, rejected the request for changes a few weeks ago. Murphy's predecessor rejected a similar request in 1995.

Leopold said he was discouraged by the decision on what he sees as a "pride and identity" issue.

Anne Arundel's Brooklyn Park is included in the 21225 ZIP code, which includes the city neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Cherry Hill.

The county's Orchard Beach and Stoney Beach are in 21226 with the city's Hawkins Point and Curtis Bay.

Orchard Beach resident Geraldine Meluh said the insurance issue is the main complaint on "this side of the bridge."

Leopold recently surveyed eight of the top insurance companies selling auto policies in Maryland to determine if the practice of lumping city and county residents was widespread, and three other companies were contacted by The Sun - with mixed results.

Two of the nine companies that responded to the survey, United States Auto Association (USAA) and the Hartford Fire and Casualty Group, include North County residents in a territory with a majority of city residents.

Several others said they combine customers from both sides of the border in areas that may have a majority of county residents.

A GEICO official, Chuck Kline, assistant vice president for pricing, said his company combines customers in an area labeled as "Territory 57" that includes four exclusively county ZIP codes and the two that cross the border, 21225 and 21226.

"We try to set it up so no one area is subsidizing another," Kline said, and "try to group ZIP codes together with similar loss experience."

Kline said insurance companies use territories, not individual ZIP codes, to reduce volatility in policy pricing and ensure that there is enough loss experience data to determine a rate.

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