The Collier County Government Complex isn’t packing up and moving anywhere. But the address certainly is shifting.
Due to a computer automation problem at the local post office that has resulted in thousands of pieces of mail addressed to county offices being temporarily delayed as they have had to be hand sorted, Postmaster Richard Barber recently told county officials that the addresses for the many different county departments, offices and judges must be revised.
As one of Collier’s largest employers and the county seat, the complex has used the same mailing address — 3301 E. Tamiami Trail, Naples, 34112 — for nearly 50 years. The county seat was originally located in Everglades City, but was moved to its current spot in 1962 not long after Hurricane Donna ravaged the area.
The machines and software that sort mail at the post office are usually able to easily divide up packages and letters based on the address written on the parcel. But since there are dozens of different offices at the government complex in East Naples that have all been using the same mailing address, dealing with the massive amount of incoming mail has become a problem. The machines have been spitting out thousands of letters, Barber said, resulting in the need for staff to hand sort the mail.
“The post office delivered 130,000 pieces of mail last year to Collier County government, and about 70,000 pieces of mail had to be hand sorted,” said John Torre, the county’s communications director.
Therefore, instead of just writing 3301 E. Tamiami Trail on envelopes, those wanting to communicate with county officials via snail mail must now either write a new physical address number, add a suite number to the address field, or both in some cases.
For example, if someone wants to send a letter to the Supervisor of Elections Office, the envelope must now read 3295 E. Tamiami Trail. Or let’s say you want to communicate with the Solid Waste Management department. Now your letter must have both 3339 E. Tamiami Trail on it, plus the addition of a suite number. In that department’s case, it’s 302. And that’s just two offices; the full list of address changes is long.
The zip code is obviously staying the same, but the post office is also implementing the full nine-digit zip code to the various offices as well. In addition, the building letters and names at the complex will no longer be valid.
While the change to the addresses was officially made Nov. 1, the post office will continue to deliver mail to county offices that have the old address on envelopes and packages for the next two years. The U.S. Postal Service normally only has to provide that service for one year, but has extended it to two years so the county has plenty of time to get word out about the change. After the two-year period, the mail will be returned to the sender.
Barber said the change had to made because the government complex expanded throughout the years from two buildings when he first began with the Postal Service 37 years ago, to the sprawling campus it is now.
“We have always been interested in improving our automated service process, and in turn, reduce the volume of mail that is manually sorted. Collier County Government Complex was at the top of the list of data with mail not automation compatible,” Barber said.
Barber said the costs involved with placing new mailboxes at the complex are unknown.
“I do not have an answer for that,” he said. “The mailboxes were in stock when I became postmaster. I inherited the equipment when I became postmaster in 1999. I use my equipment as I see fit.”
However, Barber said he believes that his office will see a reduction in its costs since “the automation product will take full hold. The mail processing equipment will be used to its fullest extent, and with the old address, we couldn’t use the software.”
The only address sign that has changed so far at the government complex is at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. The rest of the signs, at a cost to taxpayers, will be changed shortly, Torre said.
“The signs will either be modified, while others need to be replaced at a cost of $2,800 per sign,” Torre said.
For Collier County Judge Vince Murphy, the change of address will mean new suite numbers for his office, not to mention the seven circuit judges, five other county judges, and three magistrates.
“I’m more concerned about the public reaching me by mail. If somebody is trying to reach me, it’s important,” Murphy said. “Our mail is usually sorted and then hand delivered to us... I want to make sure the public can communicate with me when the address changes here.”
Dave Southhall, curator for the Collier County Museum, agreed. However, the museum will not have a suite number, but a general drop off designation on mail, at its current location.
“When people write to me, they sometimes forget to put their return address on it, and it is opened before it arrives for security reasons,” said Southhall, adding that everyone should write their address on mail to government buildings.
However, Barber said that the change is for the best.
“Any cost saving option I could employ to do it better, I will take advantage of,” Barber said.
“The two years gives the courthouse and the county complex more time to use up old addressed stationary and save money,” Barber added. “My mail carrier assigned to that location will be able to get to his deliveries in half of the time, because the automated equipment can do it faster. It’s going to save time, labor costs, and in turn, allow us to serve the public in the same amount of time as we add deliveries to their respective communities.”
For a full list of the new addresses, visit www.colliergov.net/Index.aspx?page=3102.