Postal fight lives on
Appeal efforts, challenges continue as Sundance closure deadlines near
January 8, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Several Steamboat Springs residents are appealing to federal and state authorities to keep postal services at the Sundance branch as deadlines for its closure approach.
The U.S. Postal Service plans to end retail postal service Jan. 15, one week from today, at the Sundance at Fish Creek branch off Anglers Drive. Steamboat Springs Postmaster Tim O'Brien has said that after that date, four Sundance employees will move to the downtown branch at Lincoln Avenue and Third Street, where retail services will be consolidated. O'Brien has adjusted traffic patterns at the downtown branch — setting up a counterclockwise flow in the parking lot and allowing only right-turn exits onto Third Street — to accommodate increased use. But resident John de Wardt told Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday that, in his opinion, "Third and Oak (Street) is going to become a disaster" if Sundance customers seek postal services downtown. The Sundance branch has nearly 2,600 P.O. boxes. The P.O. boxes will remain at the Sundance branch until at least March 15; their future after that date remains uncertain.
Sundance postal employee Don Ciavarra said Thursday that he filed an appeal of the service closure with the federal Postal Regulatory Commission. Ciavarra said he was acting as a citizen and postal customer, not as a postal worker, but he declined to comment further because of his employment.
Sundance customer Renee Mestan had no such reservation.
"We're trying to stop this on a lot of different fronts," Mestan said about the service closure. "There seems to be a way, if we have enough reason, to stop that. I'm going to also do an appeal myself. …We're talking about a lot of people here."
Mestan was part of an effort late last year to gather signatures opposing the Sundance closure. Bob Larson, manager of the Sundance at Fish Creek shopping center, said in December that more than 2,000 petition signatures were collected in support of preserving not only retail service but also P.O. boxes at the Sundance branch.
Although the Postal Service announced plans last month to end P.O. box service at Sundance on March 15, Larson said negotiations to keep the boxes there past that date are on a positive track.
"The deal isn't finalized, but that's what we're working on," Larson said Thursday. "We think we're close."
City Manager Jon Roberts also expressed optimism.
"I've not received a confirmation, but the latest information that we received is that the U.S. Postal Service had reached agreement to leave the post office boxes in place," Roberts said. "The indications we received were that it would certainly be beyond March."
De Wardt has been in contact with Colorado Department of Transportation officials to determine whether increased use of the downtown branch would require additional traffic infrastructure or permits.
The answer could be no.
De Wardt shared an e-mail he received that lists CDOT operations engineer Zane Znamenacek as the sender. The e-mail states that because the downtown post office is not expanding or adding services, CDOT "does not have sufficient evidence at this time" to require a state highway access permit.
Znamenacek could not be reached Thursday to confirm the e-mail.
De Wardt expressed concern about the proximity of the downtown branch to U.S. Highway 40.
"If the Third-Oak intersection gets too overloaded, the backup is going to go into 40, and the backup will then prevent the flow of traffic on 40," he said.
City Public Works Director Philo Shelton said he is meeting with CDOT officials Monday to discuss potential impacts of traffic increases at the downtown branch.
Postal Service spokesman Al DeSarro said last month that regardless of whether P.O. boxes remain at Sundance after March 15, the branch's boxes "will stay in that vicinity in Steamboat." DeSarro said that could mean housing the boxes in vacant commercial space or installing modular units at the potential site of a new, main post office a private developer could build near the intersection of U.S. 40 and Pine Grove Road.