Census addresses glitch

The most electronic of all census counts is upon us, and the Census Bureau

already has faced a numbers crisis: 125 million envelopes were misaddressed

by a contractor.

The envelopes contained a letter to be mailed this week alerting the public

that the census is coming. Officials discovered an extra number in front

of every address.

No need to worry, however: "In no way does it put Census 2000 at risk,"

Census Director Kenneth Prewitt said at a press conference Feb. 28.

Never fear, came word from the U.S. Postal Service: "Our high-speed, automated

sorting machines can read the proper address from the bar code on the mail

piece."

The contractor responsible for the error was not so calm. It was a vendor's

nightmare, said Anthony Alleghen, the government projects coordinator for

Wisconsin-based Freedom Graphic Systems, which had a $5.9 million contract

for Census work.

The extra digit comes from a code used to identify the type of address on

the envelope. The digit could be a number from 1 to 5, although most often

it's a 1. So, someone at 101 Main St. may wind up with an envelope that

reads 1101 Main St.

But who's counting?

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