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Mayor willing to risk jail time to fix mail issue

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 9:42 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 20, 2021 at 7:08 PM CDT
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HOXIE, Ark. (KAIT) - Snail mail is living up to its name in one Northeast Arkansas town. So much so, the mayor is willing to risk jail time to fix the issue.

Mayor Dennis Coggins of Hoxie said residents are receiving their water bills so late, many are past due before they are opened. To fix the problem, he said he would start delivering the mail himself, which is illegal.

“I’ve decided to take it upon myself. I did not go to the council because I don’t want the council to be arrested. If somebody is going to get arrested, it’ll be me,” Coggins said. “I’ve never been in jail before, but I’m willing to go because of this right here. It is time to do something.”

Coggins said he has been in contact with Rep. Rick Crawford and the local postal service looking for a solution, but in the meantime, he’ll do whatever it takes to help his town.

The issue lies in the delivery chain. Around 10 years ago, mail would be sent from Hoxie to Walnut Ridge, and then to Jonesboro where it was sorted. Then it would follow that chain back to Hoxie residents.

Now, though, the mail makes an extra trip; it goes across the river to Memphis, Tennessee.

The mail is sorted in Memphis and then makes its rounds back through the chain until it finally lands in Hoxie mailboxes. However, that process takes too long for residents to get their mail in time to pay bills.

Additionally, some of the mail never makes it at all and gets returned to City Hall. Many have correct addresses and no issues that should force them to be sent back.

“Last week we got one back from 2017. Where it’s been? I have no idea, but it came back to us. This one was (received) yesterday. It was mailed out in August 2021, and we received it (on October 19),” Coggins said, referencing a pile of returned bills on his desk.

Residents can pay their bill online, but Coggins says it’s hard to do so when customers don’t know how much they owe. He also said the city is working on informing citizens they can pick up their bills at City Hall, though it may not be a viable option for everyone.

If not, Coggins said he would hand-deliver them personally.

“I’ve already told the post office I was going to do it. If they can’t deliver the mail, I’m going to deliver it so the people can get their bills where they can pay them,” Coggins said.

On Wednesday, the USPS responded to the situation in Hoxie.

“The Postal Service appreciates its customers and strives to provide excellent service. We take the concerns of our customers very seriously, and, when mail service issues occur, we take steps to quickly resolve them. In this specific case, local management is aware of concerns with timely delivery of water bills in Hoxie, AR, and is reviewing new strategies to ensure regular, timely and efficient service,” Becky Hernandez with USPS said. “We extend our sincere apologies for any inconvenience that may have been caused. We want to assure our customers in Hoxie that we are working diligently to resolve their concerns, and thank them for their patience as we work to satisfactorily address this matter.”

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