September 5, 2009 in Region

For sale: post office, slightly used

By Eric Schwartz The Chronicle, Centralia, Wash.
 
Written comments are being accepted through Sept. 11. The comments should be sent to the U.S. Postal Service’s Asset Management Team at the Western Facilities Office located at 160 Inverness Drive West, STE 400, in Englewood, CO 80112-5005. Eric Schwartz: (360) 807-8245

The Centralia Post Office building is for sale, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service’s Seattle office confirmed Friday.

Notices posted inside the building, which was built from brick and blocks in 1937, invites written comments from residents to be received no later than Sept. 11.

“We’re looking at virtually all of our postal services across the country,” said Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson, who said selected facilities in Bremerton, Tacoma and Seattle are also facing potential sale.

“Obviously, Centralia is one they thought they could make some money on, or save some money,” Swanson added.

The U.S. Postal Service, facing the dual onslaught of the move to the Internet and a struggling economy, faces a potential loss of $7 billion for the fiscal year ending in September, Swanson said.

Swanson said mail volumes have dropped between 13 and 15 percent over the past year, accounting for approximately 28 billion pieces of mail.

He blames a large portion of the decline on the souring economy, which has driven many companies out of business and zapped advertising dollars once used for mailings.

In March, the postal service announced cuts of 50 million work hours, halted construction on new facilities, the freezing of salaries for all officers and executives and hiring, a 15 percent reduction in staff and consolidated mail processing operations.

If the Centralia office is indeed sold, Swanson said the U.S. Postal Service “would commit to maintaining some sort of retail presence in the downtown area.”

“What exactly that would be would depend on the circumstances,” he said.

Swanson said options would include renting a new space, purchasing a storefront or placing a contract postal unit in the downtown area.

A notice posted at the Centralia Post Office and dated Aug. 31 said the U.S. Postal is “considering” selling and/or redeveloping the property located at 214 Centralia College Blvd.

The 72-year-old building is 9,096 square feet in size and sits on a half-acre property. The building is eligible for historic status, and is zoned for office and commercial use.

Any sale will be subject to the continuation of retail services either remaining in the existing facility or relocating to a space in close proximity to the existing location, according to the notice.

“If and when” a sale occurs, the postal service is mandated to go through a community contact process including a public meeting to solicit comments from public officials and citizens, according to the notice.

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