The U.S. Postal Service plans to move out of its historic Riverside Avenue post office in downtown Spokane to cut costs, Spokane Postmaster Karen Fairlee said today.
“We’re just in the beginning of a two- or three-part process,” she said. “Like any other business that needs more money to keep operating, we need to show we’re able to cut costs.”
She said she doesn’t know where the office will relocate, but it will remain downtown. USPS administrators haven’t identified a short list of alternate downtown sites, she added.
As the shutdown proceeds, the first phase will be eliminating postal carrier pickups at the downtown facility. About 26 carriers handle mail for 19 routes using the building, which is next to the federal courthouse. The carriers will be moved “before the snow flies” to the Liberty Park Post Office, Fairlee said.
The relocation of the retail operation and maintenance of downtown post office boxes won’t happen until sometime in 2012, Fairlee said.
Built in the early 1900s, the building at the corner of Lincoln and Riverside has been a post office for 102 years.
The postal service uses space on the first floor and a loading dock in the basement. Upstairs is federal courthouse and office space.
One source of cost savings would be reducing the number of post office boxes in a new space, Fairlee said. The old building has 1,600 boxes, including some that are substantial in size. Few people need large boxes, she said. At present only about 1,000 of the boxes are rented.
The Postal Service leases its Riverside office space from the General Services Administration. That rate has not gone up, but it’s not small and can be reduced by relocating elsewhere, Fairlee said.
Fairlee said she doesn’t know what the GSA will do with the space the Postal Service vacates. “I’m not sure they even know what our plans are yet,” she said.
The post office building has recently undergone $2.3 million worth of upgrades funded by the 2009 stimulus act.
The Postal Service has announced the agency is considering a number of steps to save money, including reducing delivery to five days per week and closing more than 3,000 branches nationwide.
The choice of ending Saturday delivery can only be approved by Congress, and so far no consensus has developed to take that step.
Among offices that could be closed to cut costs are the Parkwater, Hillyard and Dishman stations in Spokane.
Fairlee said it’s not a sure thing that those three offices will be closed, as the USPS needs to look at how residents in those neighborhoods would be affected.