Emergency Suspensions

What happened in Petworth? A DC Suspension Story

October 4, 2015

[Note: Please see the correction/update at the end of this story.]

The post office in Petworth, a community in Washington, DC, closed at the end of July.  The closing didn’t get much attention, but the story of what happened in Petworth is a useful case study of how the Postal Service has been conducting suspensions, closures, and relocations.

The Postal Service notified the community a month in advance that the Petworth Station at 4211 9th Street, NW, would be closing.  On June 26th, a notice was posted on the door of the post office saying, “The Postal Service will suspend service at this location effectively on July 28, 2015 due to the termination of our lease.”

The Postal Service often helps create a lease renewal problem and then uses it as an opportunity to close a post office, but in this case the landlord may have actually wanted the Postal Service to move out.  (A USPS Leased Facility report from 2012 says the landlord was the Praise Temple Church.)

As reported in a post on POPville, DC’s neighborhood blog, a clerk in the post office told a customer that “the District has signed a long lease to build a Community Outreach Center. They’re going to occupy the entire building and will open at the end of the year. The Post Office has to move sometime in the coming months but he doesn’t know where they’re going to go.”

That blog post was dated January 22, 2015.  It was also cross-posted to the Petworth News Facebook page on January 23, 2015.

The Postal Service thus knew in January —if not before — that the post office would have to move out “sometime in the coming months.”  

In fact, the Postal Service probably knew exactly when.  As the Leased Facility report shows, the lease on the Petworth Station was due to end on July 31, 2015.  The Postal Service had good reason to believe that it would have to vacate the space by the end of July.

Now, it’s possible that something happened between January and June that led the Postal Service to believe it might be able to remain in the space.  Perhaps the District did not end up signing a lease to build a Community Outreach Center, or perhaps the center didn't want the entire space.  A photo of the building in a June 30 article about the suspension shows a “For Lease” sign on the building.  Maybe there wasn't a new tenant for the whole space and the post office could have remained.  But the photo is from Google Maps, so it's not clear when it was taken.  The for-lease sign could date back to before the District signed the lease on the whole building.

In any case, the Postal Service probably had plenty of notice it would need to leave the location, and the situation did not really call for an emergency suspension.  It wasn't much of an "emergency."

When the Postal Service knows well in advance that it will be losing the lease, it is supposed to do one of two things — initiate a discontinuance procedure to close the post office permanently, or find a new location.  There is a set of regulations for both procedures, and it doesn’t look like the Postal Service followed either of them.  

It may be understandable when postal officials out in the Hinterlands don't always follow the regulations, but the Petworth post office was located less than four miles from USPS headquarters in L'Enfant Plaza.  Some of the people who work in HQ probably live in Petworth.  

Two post offices closed in Kentucky for emergency suspensions

The Postal Service suspended service in Almo, Kentucky after employees smelled sewage and noticed a spongy feeling to the floor, which may mean that mean mold. The Postal Service will spend the next few days trying to find and fix the problem.  There is no time-line to reopen the post office. PO boxes have been moved to the post office in Dexter, Kentucky. Read more.

Service has apparently also been suspended in Lowes, KY, for reasons unknown.  



Graham, MO post office suspended for structural concerns

June 10, 2015

Built in 1891 as an Independent Order of Odd Fellows hall, the Post Office in Graham, Missouri, was recently closed due to structural concerns. The Postal Service said a decision on whether to reopen the office, possibly in another location, will not be made for another 12 to 18 months.  Read more.

Post office in Korbel, California, closed for emergency suspension

March 17, 2014

The post office in Korbel, California (95550) was closed for an emergency suspension last week, apparently on one days’ notice to customers.  The notice on the door is dated March 10, 2014; it says the post office will be closed as of March 11. 

The reason given in the notice is simply “foundational and structural issues with the building.”  Part of the structure seems to be settling a bit, as one can see from photos of the floor by the door and the flag pole out of alignment.

The Korbel post office was one of 3,650 post offices slated for closure in 2011 (under the Retail Access Optimization Initiative), but back in January 2013 it ended up having its hours reduced to four a day under POStPlan.

The lease was due to expire on February 20, 2014, but there’s no word that the lease termination had anything to do with the suspension.  It’s even possible that the lease was renewed, but that’s not looking very likely at this point.  In fact, it appears that this post office won’t be re-opening anytime soon, if ever.  The carrier case and post office boxes have been moved to Blue Lake, which is a couple of miles away.

The annual rent on the Korbel post office is $4,200 a year, and it was staffed by a part-time worker earning about $12 an hour, for a total of about $16,000 a year including modest benefits and leave time.  Closing the Korbel post office could thus save about $20,000 a year.  But a permanent closure will require a discontinuance study, not merely an emergency suspension.

Korbel is a small town in Humboldt County in northern California.  It's named after the Korbel brothers, founders of Korbel Wines, who built a sawmill and company town there back in 1881.  It was originally called North Fork, but it was renamed Korbel with the arrival of the post office in 1891.  In the upper left corner of the photo, you can see the historic Blue Lake Bridge over the Mad River.

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