School site could be lost for post office

County, postal officials need to discuss terms for Hampstead facility

Next deadline looms

August 03, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

The opportunity to locate a new post office at the old Hampstead Elementary School might be lost if the U.S. Postal Service and Carroll County don't come to an agreement soon, town leaders and postal officials said.

One deadline to move the project forward has passed, and another looms. Postal officials have said they want to secure a location for the new post office by next month. They are considering other sites.

"We need to have a dialogue within the next day or so," John Turpin, a spokesman with the U.S. Postal Service, said yesterday. "We don't have a proposal from the commissioners, so it's impossible for me to comment."

In early June, postal service officials told Hampstead leaders they would need assurance that the school site, then owned by the county Board of Education, would be available. They wanted that assurance so they could consider building a 14,600-square-foot facility to replace the cramped 3,600-square-foot Hampstead post office on Houck Avenue.

Postal officials have been discussing a new site for about 16 months. Town officials have been lobbying to have a new facility in the downtown business district.

At a June meeting with postal officials, Mayor Christopher M. Nevin asked whether a July 31 deadline to secure the school property and get a commitment for its availability would be soon enough.

Turpin said it would be.

Since then, the county commissioners gained ownership of the school, after the county and state school boards declared the property as surplus.

Turpin said Nevin has informed him that the town would not be able to deliver the property because Carroll Commissioners Donald I. Dell, Julia Walsh Gouge and Robin Bartlett Frazier want to deal directly with Postal Service officials.

"The Board of Commissioners are open for discussion on using that old school property to build a post office, but postal officials have not returned my calls," Dell said yesterday.

Dell said he believed the commissioners "should work with town officials to enhance the [Hampstead] Main Street business district."

"After all, the local people are the ones doing business there and, if [putting the post office closer to downtown] would make it more convenient for them, I think I ought to do what I can to help," Dell said.

The mayor and Town Council announced last week that the August Town Council meeting would be held tonight. The topic of relocating the post office was not on the agenda, but Councilman Haven N. Shoemaker said the matter could be discussed under unfinished business or could be addressed by Nevin during his comments at the meeting.

Attempts to reach Nevin yesterday were unsuccessful.

The mayor, Town Council and Christian E. Cavey, president of the Hampstead Business Association, have strongly supported the old school site for relocation of the post office, rather than two other sites under consideration.

Cavey has proposed that postal officials retain the facade of the old school for its historical and sentimental significance, and demolish the rest of the decaying structure, built about 1917.

"If the two sides don't soon get together on this, I don't think it will happen," Cavey said yesterday.

Other sites under consideration are outside of town. One, on Route 30 near Lizzie's Lockers to the north, is farther from the downtown business district than a site on Route 482 off Route 30, which is called Main Street within town limits.

In other council business tonight, a proposed noise ordinance is expected to be discussed, but passage might be premature because council members have not had much chance to consider it, said Shoemaker, the town councilman who has worked on drafting the proposal.

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