By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
The city of Killeen utility collections department is working to fix an influx of a familiar message: return to sender, address unknown.
Jerry Wykes, city of Killeen utility collections manager, said she noticed an increasing number of returned bills about four months ago. Returned bills are common for Killeen. Sometimes when residents move, they don't provide a forwarding address and a final water bill will get sent back.
"But we're getting bills back from customers who have been in their homes for 20 years," Wykes said.
These were final bills. About a week and a half ago, Wykes met with City Manager Connie Green, City Attorney Kathy Davis and Postmaster Jeff Davis to find the cause of the problem.
When mail piles up in a mailbox for more than 10 days, the post office assumes the customer has moved and not left a forwarding address. But sometimes the post office's database gets confused when postal customers leave temporarily, whether it's to go on vacations, deployments or training exercises.
"All those things that last longer than 10 days, we start seeing mail returned," Davis said.
Wykes said the city collections department is trying to contact as many residents by phone as possible when a bill gets returned with no forwarding address.
"We're doing what we can here," she said. "A lot of people are getting delinquent bills, a lot of people are getting late charges assessed."
Wykes said the late fee is being waived the first time it happens in most cases.
"We can't waive those fees every month, some action has to be taken," Wykes said.
She said customers need to take the initiative to contact the post office.
"They really need to get to the post office, I can't stress that enough,"
Davis said the post office is following protocol and needs customers to keep the lines of communication open.
"It all depends if they tell us what's going on," Davis said.
He said sometimes postal customers will call everyone except the post office to fix the problem.
"Call the post office if you've got an issue, that's the fastest way to get it fixed," Davis said.
He said another common problem is people have mail fowarded too early and the mail arrives more than 10 days before the customer moves. That causes the same confusion, Davis said.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7550