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West Valley City, Salt Lake County in tug of war over 84118

Published August 14, 2013 9:44 am

ZIP codes • Many in Kearns township, county council object to postmark changing from SLC.
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People in ZIP code 84118 are living out their own reality show of sorts.

They get to decide whether postmarks on their mail continue to say Salt Lake City, as they have for years, or are changed to West Valley City, as requested by that city largely to increase its brand recognition and economic-development efforts.

Residents of 84118 have until midnight Thursday to mail in a business reply postcard that went to their addresses recently from the U.S. Postal Service, soliciting votes.

"The city can ask for the change, but it's our customers who decide," said Salt Lake City Postmaster Charley Wright. So by next Friday, Postal Service accountants are expected to have added up the votes and the city designation with the most votes will win. Its name will adorn all 84118 mail.

In this case, the tension that makes for a good reality show comes from Kearns. A lot of people there don't like the idea of having their mail say they're from West Valley City. They don't live in that city. They live in Kearns, a township in unincorporated Salt Lake County.

Even though Kearns isn't any more a part of Salt Lake City than West Valley City, describing 84118 as Salt Lake City is more acceptable to these folks largely because the fear that messing with the name will cause mix-ups in mail delivery since automated systems match numbers and names to route parcels.

But more important, said Salt Lake County Councilman Michael Jensen, whose district includes 84118, concerned Kearns residents are clearly saying, "We don't want to lose our identity either."

The Republican councilman received unanimous County Council support Tuesday to draft a letter opposing the change. It will be sent to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and the six members of Utah's congressional delegation, co-signed by Democratic County Mayor Ben McAdams and Steve DeBry, the GOP council chairman.

DeBry said he understands why West Valley City wants the city's name on mail from ZIP codes 84128, 84120 and 84119 — as well as 84118 — all of which are largely within city boundaries. It is the state's second-largest city, he added, and should be able to use that to its advantage.

"But it's just as important to have a sense of identity as a township as of an incorporated city," DeBry said.

The County Council's letter contended about 80 percent of 84118's delivery area is outside of West Valley City, a breakdown that should give opposition forces an edge in a popular vote.

Evidence of mounting resistance was apparent at an informational meeting the Postal Service held Wednesday at the Kearns Library. Wright said 130 to 150 people attended that meeting about the 84118 name designation. The previous night, 30 people were at a similar session for the 84119, 84120 and 84128 zones at the West Valley Library.

The Kearns Library crowd included officials from the county and West Valley City, the Legislature and Sen. Mike Lee's office. "All took a turn at the podium," said Wright, noting that ZIP code name changes routinely stir emotions.

"Nobody likes change," he added.

One major reason was cited in the County Council's letter: money.

"Numerous local community federal grant programs use ZIP code demographics to assess a community's qualifications for grants," it said. "Renaming the 84118 ZIP code as West Valley City would inhibit [if not eliminate] Salt Lake County from the opportunity to pursue those grants as the municipal-services provider and local government forKearns Township."

Each of the four proposed ZIP code name changes will be decided on its own, up or down. Those approved by voters will become effectiveJan. 1, Wright said.

mikeg@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sltribmikeg