RIO COMMUNITIESFor years, various officials with the city of Rio Communities have tried and failed numerous times to obtain a ZIP code for the municipality.  

The current administration is once again requesting its own ZIP code, hoping to differentiate it from its neighboring city, Belen.    

Even after Rio Communities incorporated 10 years ago, it continues to share the 87002 Zip code, which is designated for most of southern Valencia County, including the city of Belen. 

At the Aug. 15 council meeting, Rio Communities City Manager Martin Moore read aloud a draft letter to the United States Postal Service district manager from the mayor and city council asking for a ZIP code.  

In part, the letter reads, “The city of Rio Communities (as a municipality with a population nearing 5,000) repeats its request to designate a separate (ZIP) code for our incorporated community. We also request a meeting to discuss the process and paperwork the Postal Service needs for a formal review.” 

The letter states there is an “unused” or “under-used” ZIP number — 87003 — which the city wants.  

“We also understand that 273 of 360 ZIP codes in New Mexico are under 4,000 population; and 180 of 360 ZIP codes in New Mexico have a population under 1,000 people,” the letter continues. 

The letter also asks for a meeting with the U.S. Postal Service.  

“It’s been long overdue; we’ve been working on this for a while,” said Rio Communities City Councilor Peggy Gutjahr. “Just so everybody to understand, we are not asking the (U.S. Postal Service) to build us a post office because that’s been an issue for them. This is really for us to have our own ZIP code.” 

At the meeting, the council approved sending the letter to the federal entity.  

During the Aug. 28 meeting, the council also approved a plan, called the “critical path on ZIP code issues.” 

Moore told the council the city has an active plan going forward regarding the ZIP code issue.  

“Information has been put together, including updated addresses as current as we can,” Moore said.  

The timetable the city approved, include:  

  • ZIP code request letter to the U.S. Postal Service: August 2023
  • Copied request letters to congressional and state officials: August 2023
  • Encourage rezoning and annexation petition process: August 2023
  • Meeting with the governor and legislators: September 2023
  • Meeting with congressional representatives: September/October 2023
  • Follow-up letter and data presented to the U.S. Postal Service: September/October 2023
  • Congressional delegation letter of support to accompany follow-up letter: September/October 2023
  • Seek a legislative solution of ZIP code request if there is no progress toward a process solution from the U.S. Postal Service: December, 2023

“We’ve already prepared and the council has signed the letter to the U.S. Postal Service for a unique ZIP code designation; that’s been done,” Moore said. “Information has been put together in the packets that includes the updated address list.” 

The city manager said he is recommending a meeting to discuss the issue with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the legislators who represent the city sometime in September. He said one U.S. congressman will be visiting the city in late September or early October.  

“At some point in time, we’ll either be successful  working with the postal service or we won’t, and we’ll need to be able to work together with our congressional delegation and seek a legislative solution if we have to. 

“Our goal on this is we’re not going to quit on this until the deal is done.” 

Rio Communities City Councilor Art Apodoca said he’s glad the city “has a clear path forward” in acquiring a ZIP code for the city.  

According to the Library of Congress, the ZIP in ZIP Code stands for Zone Improvement Plan, and it was introduced July 1, 1963, as part of a larger Postal Service Nationwide Improved Mail Service (NIMS) plan to improve the speed of mail delivery. 

ZIP codes tell advertisers and marketing executives not only where Americans live, but they also provide intimate details about who they are — from income and the number of children to what type of appliances they might buy, what magazines they’ll read and what cars they’ll drive. 

Many databases, such as Data Axle Reference Solutions, Hoover’s Relationship Manager, SimplyAnalytics and others, use the ZIP code as a way to limit results by geography. Government agencies also produce and publish data by ZIP code.  

Mostly notably is the Census Bureau, which was predicted by the Postal Service back in their 1967 annual report. The IRS also produces statistics by ZIP code based on individual tax returns. 

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.