City council special committee looks into 71602 concerns

To most people a ZIP code is a group of five numbers that gets mail where it needs to go, but for three aldermen on the Pine Bluff City Council the 71602 ZIP code is a source of concern because it overlaps Pine Bluff and White Hall.

Ward 4 Aldermen Steven Mays and George Stepps and Ward 1 Alderwoman Thelma Walker are the members of a special committee set up for a limited time to investigate claims related to the ZIP code. They fear all Pine Bluff residents were not counted in the 2010 Census and that tax money may not be going to the right city’s coffers.

“We believe that this issue was a real problem in the 2010 Census,” Mays said. “I have received many calls from Pine Bluff residents who tell me that because they live in the 71602 ZIP code, their mail says White Hall even though they live in the Pine Buff city limits. Three fourths of Ward 4 is in the 71602 ZIP code.”

Stepps agreed the Census is a topic of concern.

“We feel like it might have affected us during the Census count in 2010,” Stepps said. “We know there are Pine Bluff residents living in the 71602 ZIP code whose mail says White Hall. As people come forward, we on the committee want to be able to go back and take a look at personal and real estate property taxes and see if it was Pine Bluff or White Hall that received that money.”

Stepps said they hope to have their investigation complete in the fall.

“We are also looking at where the taxes paid by businesses in the Jefferson Industrial Park are going,” Stepps said.

Mays said the group plans to meet with White Hall Mayor Noel Foster to discuss the issue.

“We need to solve this at least by the end of the year,” Mays said. “We want to make sure that the citizens of Pine Bluff get a fair and correct understanding of this ZIP code issue.”

Mays said that town hall meetings on the topic are being planned.

“We’re going to start a series of meetings in the next 30 to 40 days, beginning with the 4h Ward and moving on to the whole city,” Mays said.

A call placed to Walker was not returned by press time.

The 71602 ZIP code includes parts of Jefferson and Grant counties and had a 2010 population of 17,689.

U.S. Census Bureau data breaks the 71602 population into 12,561 urban residents and 5,127 rural residents.