Postal Service changes course

Cost-cutting program puts Town Center office move on hold


April 16, 2000|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The plan to move Columbia's oldest, and perhaps most obscure, post office from the Town Center lakefront to The Mall is postponed indefinitely, U.S. Postal Service officials say.

A nationwide cost-cutting campaign, designed to save the mail delivery service $4 billion over the next four years by eliminating 9,000 jobs, has put the kibosh on the plans, said David Lewin, a postal spokesman.

"The project to relocate has been put on hold," he said, and a public meeting on the proposed move scheduled for April 27 has been canceled. "We're putting a number of facilities on hold," Lewin added, noting that the move would have cost more than $300,000.

The 2,000-square-foot post office, which has inhabited a corner of the lobby of the American Cities Building since 1968, was to move to quarters nearly double that size close to Bun Penny Food & Wine in The Mall in Columbia.

The Postal Service thought that with Columbia's rapid growth over the past 22 years a more accessible and visible retail location would benefit the public and the Postal Service, but a handful of postal patrons opposed the change.

Bonita Glaser, a longtime Columbia resident and artist who attended a meeting March 21 to discuss the move, was delighted at the news.

"Thank goodness," she said. "My concern was that Columbia's changing. I'd like to see it like a town." Moving the tiny Town Center post office to become another retail mall outlet would be like "turning the whole world into Kmart."

Other critics, most of whom rent postal boxes in the Town Center post office, had more practical objections. They complained that trying to make a daily run to empty their boxes would take too long because of mall crowds -- especially around the Christmas holidays.

They also complained that there was not enough public notice of the March meeting, which is why postal officials had scheduled another meeting at the main Columbia Post Office, 6801 Oak Hall Lane, in east Columbia.

Jay Bonstingl, a Wilde Lake resident who has rented a post office box for 25 years, was particularly angry about the proposed move, but not anymore.

Last month, he called the proposal to move the post office "one of the dumbest ideas I've ever heard." On Friday, however, he said of the decision to halt the move: "That's great. Boy, that's good news. That's music to my ears."

Although postal officials said the lease on the new space was signed only by mall management and not by them, Bonstingl remained skeptical.

"I think it was a done deal, but I haven't seen the lease," he said.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars and so must be self-supporting. Officials said in March that they have operated in the black for the past five years but see problems looming. Plans are to raise the cost of a first-class stamp in 2001.

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