Steamboat Springs The lease isn’t signed yet, but a U.S. Postal Service spokesman said Tuesday that it’s “strongly set in stone” that postal boxes will remain at the Sundance branch for as many as three years beyond what would have been a March 15 closure date.
More than a week after the Jan. 15 closure of retail services at the Sundance at Fish Creek post office, spokesman Al DeSarro said the U.S. Postal Service will keep Sundance’s nearly 2,600 postal boxes at the branch off Anglers Drive. DeSarro said finalizing details with contractors to renovate the retail area at Sundance and a staff member burdened with several other projects have prolonged the lease process.
Sundance at Fish Creek manager Bob Larson called that process frustrating Tuesday.
“I am still waiting for our lease agreement,” Larson said. “I’m in the dark.”
Larson said the lease discussions of more than a year have been plagued by “misinformation and delays” that make the process seem “like bad-faith negotiating on the part of the post office.”
DeSarro disagreed with Larson’s assessment and said the delays were “nothing that we felt couldn’t be worked out successfully.” He said he had not heard of any change in plans and that postal boxes will remain at Sundance.
“That’s pretty much strongly set in stone that that’s going to happen,” DeSarro said.
He said a finalized lease agreement should be presented to Larson within two weeks.
“Rest assured, we are committed to moving ahead with a new arrangement to extend our lease agreement there to three years past March,” DeSarro said. “We’re fully satisfied with the arrangement we have there and with Mr. Larson.”
A citizen-led petition effort, expressing concerns about increased traffic and customers at the downtown post office at Third Street and U.S. Highway 40, attempted to keep retail services at the Sundance branch in addition to the boxes. The citizen action spurred a Jan. 13 letter to U.S. Postmaster General John “Jack” Potter from U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, who requested that the Sundance branch remain fully operational.
“Certainly, we would respect the senators’ request, but at the same time … we believe we’ve represented a very strong and sound case here for doing what we’re doing,” DeSarro said at the time.
Renovations have not begun to the retail area at the Sundance branch. DeSarro said that work would begin after finalization of the lease.
Steamboat Springs Postmaster Tim O’Brien said Tuesday that he has seen increased use of the downtown branch.
“We’ve noticed that it’s been a little bit busier, but not significant,” O’Brien said. “It’s nothing that’s not fairly easily absorbed. … Lines are a little longer for folks, for sure, but we’re still keeping (customer wait times) within five minutes.”
O’Brien said two of Sundance’s four postal employees have moved to the downtown branch, and the other two are remaining at Sundance to deliver mail and handle packages.
O’Brien said he has not noticed more vehicle traffic, but said “it’s going to be difficult to tell the increase in traffic because traffic is so bad anyway” at the downtown branch.
The Postal Service has said it is planning for a new, consolidated post office to open in Steamboat Springs in August 2011.
DeSarro said the three-year time frame of the potential lease extension for Sundance is a fallback plan and not an indication that the Postal Service expects a delay in construction of the new post office.
A possible location for a new post office is the proposed City South development, a commercial center that developer Brian Olson has planned near U.S. 40 and Pine Grove Road. Plans for that development have remained stagnant for more than a year.
Olson declined to comment about City South on Tuesday.