Carper requests GSA review of Old Post Office lease

SteveBlog

Dover Post: U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Ranking Member Tom Carper, D-Delaware, sent a letter to General Services Administration Inspector General Carol Ochoa requesting a review of GSA’s management of the lease with the Trump Old Post Office to develop and manage the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C.

“Since President Trump took the oath of office, the Trump Old Post Office, LLC appears to be in breach of the plain language of the lease agreement,” the letter read, in part.

“Despite the warning signs from members of Congress and ethics watchdogs, GSA chose not to take any action to address or enforce this provision of the lease or the other steps to mitigate the difficulties the lease creates for GSA and other government officials who oversee management of the agreement. Your office is in a unique position to review GSA’s management of the lease of the Old Post Office Building and identify any potential missteps.”

The senators reminded Ochoa that the GSA IG office has previously led reviews of matters of significance, including audits of the Public Buildings Service’s lease administration practices.  Read more.

(Photo: Trump Hotel)

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‘We are upset’: Strongstown PA post office closes abruptly

SteveBlog

tribdem.com: An emergency decision to close the Strongstown PA post office has residents in the small Indiana County community fuming.

“We just all feel that nobody even asked for suggestions,” Strongstown resident and business owner Cathy Homer said. “We have people who were willing to step in and run the post office for a while.”

Homer said the office closed Monday after longtime Postmistress Helga Krall fell ill over the weekend.

Strongstown customers with post offices boxes are now being handled by the Belsano post office, about three miles to the east on Route 422, Postal Service spokesman Terrence Kelley said.

“Strongstown is a Contract Postal Unit,” Kelley said in an email.  “The owner is unable to fulfill the contract to provide the service. The contract has been given an emergency termination.”

“On Monday morning, there was a sign that said ‘post office permanently closed,’ ” Homer said.

“They took out our mailboxes and took the outside postal box. There is nowhere in town where you can mail a letter or buy stamps.” Read more.

(Photo: Strongstown post office, by K Kindahl, Post Mark Collectors Club collection.) (Also on Google Street Views.)

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Postal Service announces plan to sell historic Richmond CA post office

SteveBlog

East Bay Times: The United States Postal Service announced Wednesday that it plans to close Richmond’s downtown post office, a historic building considered a landmark for the city, dealing a blow to efforts to attract more investment to the area.

The art deco-era building at 1025 Nevin Ave. was built in 1938 as part of the New Deal program launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. It once was a hub for the city and featured colorful murals, including one recently rediscoverd after it was missing for more than 40 years.

The closure comes as the U.S. Postal Service tries to address its financial struggles by trying to sell assets and trim costs. A major part of the post office’s financial problems stems from a congressional mandate that requires the agency to prefund its pension plans, a unique requirement not asked of any other governmental agency. Already, dozens of historic post offices around the country have been put on the market, including ones in Berkeley and Napa.

Once the sale is finalized, the retail operation of the downtown Richmond post office will be moved to an existing postal facility about a mile way where letter carriers are already based, according to Augustine Ruiz, a spokesman for the United States Postal Service.

“The Nevin Avenue location is too big and is a building that no longer serves our purposes,” Ruiz said.

. . . Wednesday’s announcement was roundly criticized by city officials and other advocates of downtown who have sought to attract new housing and businesses to the area. The post office serves employees of nearby Kaiser hospital, a Social Security Administration building, several county office buildings, many small businesses, along with residents of numerous apartments and housing developments in the area.

The post office “is a landmark and central to the historic fabric of the downtown district,” said Amanda Elliott, executive director of the Main Street Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing downtown Richmond. “Richmond is woefully underserved in many aspects and closing the main post office in the city will add to this unfortunate trend.”  Read more in the East Bay Times.

Last year Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-11], introduced legislation in the House (H.R.606) to designate the facility as the “Harold D. McCraw, Sr., Post Office Building” in honor of  a former Richmond Postmaster and community leader.

According to the Living New Deal website, the Richmond post office once housed a mural entitled “Richmond Industrial City,” by Victor Arnautoff, who did the “City Life” mural in Coit Tower and was a potégé of Diego Rivera.  The mural was commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Section of Fine Arts and installed in April 1940.  In 1976 the mural was removed during a renovation of the lobby, and then, instead of being sent off for restoration, it wound up in the basement of the post office where it was nearly ruined by a water leak.  After decades in storage, the mural is currently being restored.

(Photo credits: Richmond CA post office entrance, by Karina Ioffee; exterior, by J Gallagher, Dec. 2007, in the Post Mark Collectors Club collection; Arnautoff mural, The Richmond Standard.)

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The Revolutionary Post

SteveBlog

99% Invisible: There are currently more than 31,000 post offices in the United States. Some are grand old ones that take up entire city blocks. Others are smaller—hidden away in the backs of general stores and in other odd places across rural America. And one of these smaller ones may be the most rural post office in the continental U.S.

The Supai post office is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Every day, ten pack mules carrying mail make the two-and-a-half hour trip into the canyon. The post office is there to serve the people on the Havasupai reservation.

The Supai post office was established in 1896, and its existence speaks to the lengths that the postal service has gone to since its founding connect people to each other.
Winifred Gallagher, author of How the Post Office Created America: A History, argues that the post office is not simply an inexpensive way to send a letter. The service was designed to unite a bunch of disparate towns and people under one flag, and in doing so, she believes the post office actually created the United States of America.  Read more.

 

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USPS mulls closing historic New Deal post office in Lihue, Hawaii

SteveAudio, Blog

As reported in HawaiiNewsNow, U.S. Postal Service is considering closing the Lihue post office on Kauai, but the public still has the opportunity to weigh in on the decision.  Officials posted a sign at the location on Rice Street, saying the building is no longer necessary for postal operations.  This location is the only one in town, notes the news article. The next closest post offices would be in Kapaa or Koloa.  The public has until Feb. 8 to submit comments.

In an update on Hawaii News Now story, the Postal Service explains that it’s not actually closing the Lihue post office; instead, it plans to relocate retail operations to a carrier annex about 1.3 miles from the current post office.  There’s more about that here.

 

The relocation plan is already becoming controversial.  The president of the local chamber of commerce has expressed concern about the impacts on local businesses and downtown revitalization plans.

Pat Griffin, president of the Lihue Business Association, told The Garden Island News:  “Although the proposed move might be narrowly good for the USPS, it is bad for the life of the community.  We hope that postal officials will gain a larger perspective of the Rice St. facility as an central part of this community and scrap plans to abandon the town core.”

In addition to providing postal services at the annex, residents can also use the post offices in nearby towns, but there’s not very near by.  According to the USPS location finder, the Kapaa and Koloa post offices are both 7 miles away, but that’s as the crow flies.  According to Google maps, the actual distance from the Lihue post office to the Kapaa office is over 8 miles, a 12 or 13-minute drive; there’s apparently a lot of traffic on the route, so it’s probably longer.  From Lihue to Koloa is over 10 miles, a 17-minute drive.

According to Wikipedia, the Lihue post office was built in 1939 under the New Deal. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.  The Mission Revival style architecture of the building is an accommodation to local citizens who did not want the standard neo-classical design of many mainland U.S. post offices.

Since the Postal Service already owns the Lihue post office, it won’t save lease costs by relocating, and the employees will be transferred, so there won’t be savings on labor costs either.  But closing the downtown Lahue office would allow the Postal Service to sell the historic building, which seems to be the main goal.

(Photo: Lihue post office, PostalMag.com).

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