Our View: Holding out hope for a new post office

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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 editor@steamboatpilot.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.

Comments

Fred Duckels 5 years, 5 months ago

Monopolys like this use the bully tactic to intimidate, everytime they don't get their way. They are out of options and this has to grate on them, it's tough for a beaurecrat to accept the inevitable. I think it is time to put pressure on them.

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sporty 5 years, 5 months ago

So, the post office is offering the citizens a choice. Do we want major traffic jams at US 40 and Pine Grove. Or, do we want major jams at US 40 and 3rd Street.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 5 months ago

The letter from Olson had to be made public because imagine the hell to pay if they had kept it secret. That the USPS knew that it was not going to get a new post office and didn't tell anyone. And Olson's letter said that the current deal was off.

I doubt it will be a big calamity if both offices are merged at 3rd and Lincoln. Much of the traffic is people going to the counter and there appears to be far more people going to the counter downtown than at Sundance. And the problem of delivery trucks is not going to get worse because it'd just mean more mail in the trucks, not more trucks. The same truck is going to go to and from Denver.

Note that since the cluster boxes are not being fully utilized then if congestion is bad then more people will switch to a cluster box. And much of the traffic there does not stop at the PO, but goes up Fish Creek Falls Road and there is Hilltop to Tamarack alternative once the congestion gets too bad.

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Karen_Dixon 5 years, 5 months ago

In my opinion, moving the post office out of downtown is a very bad idea. Downtown is a very walkable community. The mountain area is not. All of the Old Town residents have the option of walking/biking to a downtown location rather than hopping in their car. My guess would be that the majority of the South station users hop in their vehicles to pick up their mail. If there is no downtown station, then ALL users will be hopping in their vehicles to get mail, rather than 1/2 of them. This exacerbates traffic congestion rather than relieving it. Additionally, a much more sustainable approach to solving problems with the current building in terms of how it functions efficiently as a post office would be to consider fixing the building. Otherwise, the entire structure is likely to end up buried in Milner. I agree with the Pilot that to the extent possible, people should consider the cluster boxes. It is better to have a few mail trucks carrying many pieces of mail than to have many vehicles carrying a few pieces of mail.

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gravity 5 years, 5 months ago

To occupant of Post Office Box 77.... Questions. 1. Could some one please explain why we use only P.O. Box's or cluster box's- most other places I've lived had home delivery FOR FREE. 2. If the city is so interested in getting citizen's to use the cluster boxes, why do they continue to make it so challenging to expand and place boxes around town. 3. With @ 7,000 boxes at around $40 a year, in whose interest is it to keep us going to post office for mail. 4. Do people in the county receive free home delivery? 5. Does it bother anyone else that we pay for the privilege to receive 90% junk mail at our inconvenience to the detriment of our environment.

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