Senators step up for Sundance post office | SteamboatToday.com

Senators step up for Sundance post office

Udall, Bennet ask postmaster general to keep branch fully open

Mike Lawrence

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall

— U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet have asked the nation's top postal official to keep the Sundance post office branch fully operational, but it's unclear whether the request will stop Friday's scheduled closure of retail postal services.

Colorado's two Democratic senators announced their support for continued retail and postal box services at the Sundance at Fish Creek post office in a letter to U.S. Postmaster General John "Jack" Potter, released Wednesday. The letter also said U.S. Postal Service officials "have made clear to the community, the city of Steamboat Springs, and our staff that you plan to consolidate postal services for the community at a new location to be built by August 2011."

The letter asked Potter to keep all current services in place until that facility is built.

"We applaud the efforts that the USPS is making to cut its losses and believe that the consolidation plan is an admirable step in that direction," the senators wrote. "However, until the new facility is complete, we would strongly recommend that the USPS keep the Sundance Plaza facility open not only for P.O. Box rental, but also keep retail service available at the location until which time the two Steamboat Springs locations can be properly consolidated."

U.S. Postal Service spokesman Al DeSarro said Wednesday afternoon that he was aware of the letter but had not heard of any Postal Service reaction.

"Right now, we're proceeding as planned — certainly if we would hear anything different from our postmaster general, we would of course follow that direction," DeSarro said. "I cannot predict anything as to what ultimately would be our national postmaster general's response. 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."

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Retail postal services at the Sundance branch off Anglers Drive are scheduled to close Friday. Sundance at Fish Creek manager Bob Larson said Wednesday that negotiations are ongoing to keep the branch's nearly 2,600 postal boxes at Sundance after March 15, when the current lease ends.

DeSarro said quick action would be needed to change the closure of retail services at Sundance.

"There are plans in place to transfer operations and everything effective Saturday. So I would give that as the best guideline as to a time frame on this," he said.

DeSarro said local rumors that the retail area at Sundance will be immediately demolished to circumvent any change in plans drastically misrepresent the situation.

"It's basically a plan that helps support the landlord of the property and his future usage of the property, and we feel it's the right thing to do," DeSarro said. "There's no ulterior motive here to circumvent any process or do anything like that. All along here, we've planned to prudently utilize our space and resources … while still keeping in mind the plans for the new consolidated post office in August 2011."

Residents have expressed concerns about the potential for increased traffic and use at the downtown post office branch at Third Street and Lincoln Avenue should retail services close at Sundance. The downtown branch has about 5,200 postal boxes.

The Postal Service is facing significant financial shortfalls stemming at least in part from the economic recession. Mail volume declined by 10 billion parcels in federal fiscal year 2008, and the Postal Service lost $2.8 billion. DeSarro has said the Postal Service is projecting "at least a $3 billion deficit" in federal fiscal year 2010.

Udall spokeswoman Tara Tru­­jillo said the senator's participation in the letter was a response to public sentiment relayed by Udall's regional representative, North Routt County resident Jay Fetcher.

"Sen. Udall keeps a very close eye on what's happening in Steamboat Springs. He reads the local paper online and he heard from his regional representative out there," Trujillo said.

She acknowledged the looming deadline for closure of retail services.

"Sen. Udall is expecting a timely response to this letter — he'll make sure that staff is following up with phone calls, as well," she said.

Senators’ support

The complete text of the letter from U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to U.S. Postmaster John Potter is as follows:

Dear Postmaster General:

The United States Postal Service has a long record of outstanding service, and this excellent record of customer service is commendable and appreciated. There is concern, however, that customer service and community well-being will be adversely affected by the anticipated retail closure of the Sundance Plaza Sub-Station unit in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Our constituents appreciate the decision by USPS to keep the Sundance Plaza location open for P.O. Box rental services. Despite this decision, there are still questions as to why the retail services at the location will cease on January 15, 2010, when the lease agreement runs through March 15, 2010.

USPS officials have made clear to the community, the city of Steamboat Springs and our staff that you plan to consolidate postal services for the community at a new location to be built by August 2011. In these difficult economic times, we all must find ways to cut costs and create efficiencies. We applaud the efforts that the USPS is making to cut its losses, and believe that the consolidation plan is an admirable step in that direction.

However, until the new facility is complete, we would strongly recommend that the USPS keep the Sundance Plaza facility open not only for P.O. Box rental, but also keep retail service available at the location until which time the two Steamboat Springs locations can be properly consolidated.

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