Editorial Board, June 2009 to September 2009
- Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
- Brent Boyer, editor
- Mike Lawrence, city editor
- Tom Ross, reporter
- Grant Fenton, community representative
- Paul Strong, community representative
Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or email@example.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.
We all should hope talks between the U.S. Postal Service and local developer Brian Olson can save the deal that would result in a new post office at Pine Grove Road and U.S. Highway 40, because the Postal Service's apparent willingness to jump ship and make its current downtown location the only Steamboat postal facility is unacceptable.
The contractual agreement, in place since the fall, says that Olson and his team will build a new standalone postal facility in their proposed City South development at the southwest corner of U.S. 40 and Pine Grove Road. In exchange for some cash and building the new post office, Olson would receive the Third and Lincoln land parcel where the downtown post office branch resides. Olson previously has said the deal stipulates that the new post office be completed by Aug. 30, 2011.
In the interim, the Postal Service had announced plans to close its satellite branch in the Sundance at Fish Creek shopping center, temporarily making the downtown post office the only branch in Steamboat. That's a bad idea even as a temporary measure - officials long have considered the Third Street and Lincoln Avenue location inefficient and the cause of increased downtown traffic congestion. The building itself doesn't meet the needs of the Postal Service, particularly because of its insufficient loading bays for mail trucks.
But this week, apparently angered by a letter from Olson suggesting some of the terms of their agreement need to be revisited, Postal Service officials in Denver took the unusual step of contacting city of Steamboat Springs officials and the Steamboat Pilot & Today to announce the deal was off. Postal Service officials went on to say they were preparing to move the 2,584 post office boxes in the Sundance branch to the downtown location, where they would be installed in the space formerly occupied by the Coldwell Banker Silver Oak's real estate office. There are 5,243 post office boxes already at the Third and Lincoln location - 5,127 of which are occupied.
We can only hope the Postal Service's reaction is part of a hard-ball negotiating tactic with Olson. Increasing the number of postal customers by 50 percent at an already poor location is bad for all residents.
Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord acknowledged as much in a memo to City Council members Wednesday. In part, the memo read, "I told (Postal Service official Leigh Hettick) this was a huge problem for the community as that is a big impact to traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, parking, etc. I also stated that CDOT may have some concerns about an additional 2,500 users at this location off Highway 40."
Postal Service officials say they remain committed to working with the city to alleviate traffic and safety concerns at the downtown branch. We hope that's not just lip service.
Even the status quo - operating downtown and Sundance branches - is far superior to moving all post office operations to Third and Lincoln. But the new location in City South offers significant promise, particularly if traffic studies and appropriate planning result in a redesigned intersection at U.S. 40 and Pine Grove Road. Olson also has announced plans for a pedestrian underpass along Fish Creek, reducing the need for cyclists and walkers to navigate the dangerous intersections along U.S. 40.
We'll leave the negotiations to the parties involved, but we can offer a few additional suggestions to the Postal Service and local postal customers:
- Officials say many existing clusterboxes in Steamboat neighborhoods aren't being fully utilized. We encourage residents to inquire about space in those clusterboxes near their homes. Use of those reduces the need to visit a post office branch, and thereby reduces traffic.
- Consider adding a couple of remote drop boxes for residents mailing flat-rate envelopes and boxes. Technology allows postal customers to order flat-rate boxes and envelopes online, and even pay for their postage online and print out and affix the associated label. But those customers still must get in their cars and drive to a post office branch to drop off their packages.
Ultimately, the future of the deal rests solely in the hands of developers and the Postal Service. But the result will affect each of us.