By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
When Keizer residents type “97303” into Google, they will be told they live in Salem.
That’s a problem for Marlene Parsons, a Keizer city councilor.
“We’re our own city and we incorporated for a reason. We want Keizer to have its own ZIP code,” Parsons said.
Parsons is now partnering with Oregon State Rep. Bill Post to try and persuade the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to give the Iris Capital a dedicated ZIP code.
The current 97303 boundaries include Interstate 5 to the east, Wheatland Road Northeast and Waconda Road Northeast to the north, Willamette River to the west, and Salem-Keizer Parkway (99E), Broadway Street, and Delmar Drive north to the South (it cuts across the parking lot at the Fred Meyer shopping center, Dollar Tree is part of 97303, Fred Meyer isn’t). It also, somewhat oddly, includes about three blocks between Tryon Street Northeast and Locust Street Northeast and eight homes encircled by Riviera Drive Northeast, Island View Drive Northeast and Dreamerie Lane Northeast.
Parsons said the removal of an self-service machine at the Keizer post office late last year triggered her interest in the issue.
”We have 37,000 people and it was used quite a bit. Now, we’re back to long lines,” Parsons said.
“(The USPS) put it in at State Street and Keizer lost out.”
She and Post are hoping to draft a resolution that can be put before the Oregon Legislature next year. They are modeling the effort on a campaign launched in Tigard in April 2015.
Tigard’s primary zip codes most frequently list the city as part of Portland, the same way 97303 lists Keizer as part of Salem. The Legislature approved a bill urging Congress and the USPS to reclassify the Tigard ZIP codes. However, the bill has no power on its own, and any change requires federal approval.
To date, both the 97223 and 97224 ZIP codes are still associated with Portland in a Google search.
Parsons has already emailed a contact at USPS, but has yet to receive a reply.
“We are still waiting, but (Rep. Post and I) want to put together a plan for finguring out who will listen to us. We’d love to just sit down and have the conversation,” Parsons said.
It remains to be seen whether a dedicated ZIP code would result in the return of the self-service postage machine, but Parsons would like to see that be part of the conversation.
ZIP codes were established in 1963 to mainstream mail sorting and allow the USPS to cope with the increasing volumes of mail. The first number in the code represents a general geographic area of the nation, “0” in the east, moving to “9” in the west. The next two numbers represent regional areas, and the final two identify specific post offices. However, since their origin, ZIP codes have become a shorthand way to identify population segments according to demographics (incomes, ages, ethnicities, etc.).
Parsons sees a dedicated ZIP code as one more way to attract businesses to the Keizer – a new grocery store, for example.
“We’re lumped with northeast Salem and when you look at the cost of living or the income range for residents, we don’t know how much of that is true. I think it’s very skewed,” Parsons said. “We want Keizer to have its own ZIP code so that, when businesses pull demographics, it’s going to be more accurate in terms of what our needs are.”