Double Trouble: DUOed & lease expiring


There are two signs your post office may be in danger of closing: The Postal Service is moving the carriers to another facility — that’s called Delivery Unit Optimization (DUO) — or the lease is set to expire over the coming months.  You’ve got double trouble if both of those things are happening.  It could be that the Postal Service is moving out the carriers in anticipation of not renewing the lease and then closing the post office.

There are about 58 post offices that are being DUOed during June through September and that also have leases expiring over the next year.  The list with the details is here, and a quick summary is here:

As the USPS website explains, “Delivery Unit Optimization involves relocating letter carriers out of local Post Offices, stations and branches and consolidating them into centralized delivery offices that will continue to be served by the same processing and distribution center.  The existing retail operation will require less space and the office could then be downsized to a smaller space nearby.”

The public is usually unaware of a DUO since the carriers work in the back of the post office, and when they’re moved to another facility, it doesn’t affect the retail business in the front.  DUOs happen all the time, and it doesn’t mean that the post office will eventually close.

However, a closure is often preceded by a DUO.  The Postal Service moves out the carriers, then says it doesn’t need all the space so it’s time to close the post office and “relocate.”  Lately, that seems to mean moving the retail services to a carrier annex inconveniently located on the outskirts of town.

Lease expirations are another story.  The Postal Service has a habit of causing problems during lease renewal negotiations, and then declaring an emergency suspension.  The post office closes with hardly any notice, and while a formal discontinuance is supposed to follow soon after, that doesn’t always happen.  The practice has come under scrutiny by the PRC, and it seems to be getting worse now that the Postal Service has turned over all lease negotiations to CB Richard Ellis.

Over the past few months, there have been cases where the Postal Service gave the landlord every indication it wouldn’t be renewing the lease, then declared a suspension after the landlord found a new tenant.  CBRE is apparently demanding big rent reductions (like 30%), an early-termination clause (which allows the Postal Service to cancel the lease on short notice), and changes in who pays for the maintenance.  Anytime a lease is expiring, a post office is in danger of the Postal Service finding a reason not to renew and to close the facility.

It should be noted that 38 of the 58 post offices being DUOed and with a lease expiring soon are also on the POStPlan list.  It’s very likely that in many of these cases, the Postal Service is moving the carriers not in preperation for closing the post office but because under POStPlan there won’t be a full-time postmaster to supervise the carriers.

There will probably be a lot of DUOs going on at POStPlan post offices.  Of the approximately 300 post offices being DUOed June 1 through September 30, about half are at POStPlan post offices (that list is here).

A list of all the DUOs occurring June through September is here (it comes from the USPS website here).  A list of the post offices with leases expiring over the next year is here (there are over four thousand of them).  That list comes from the USPS facilities lists, which hasn’t been updated in quite a while, so some of these leases may have already been renewed.

Keep an eye on the list of those being DUOed with a lease expiring soon, and see how many of them end up being suspended, closed, or relocated.  It will be a good indication of whether the Postal Service really plans to preserve post offices under POStPlan, or if it’s just a distraction while the Postal Service continues to close them.

Photo credits: Post offices in
Catawba, WI (DUO 7/28/12, lease exp. 8/31/12)
Sims, NC (DUO 8/11/12, lease exp. 9/30/12)
Farnham, VA (DUO 8/22/12, lease exp. 10/31/12)
Dunnsville, VA (DUO 7/10/12, lease exp. 8/31/12)
(And a thank you to Don Cheney for some help on this one.)