New post office proposed for Purdy during town meeting

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
A facilities implementation team from the U.S. Postal Service spoke to around 50 people attending the public meeting last week on the future of the Purdy post office, the first since the office closed in April. Speaking, from left, were Melissa Pfluke, Darrin Gadson, Tom Flynn and Vee Spikes, along with architect John Ronney, back right. Also pictured are Alderman Brian Bowers, front right, and Dave Gatewood, public works, seated in back. Murray Bishoff/times-news@monett-times.com

Postal officials seek new site, written support

In a turn of events compared to the closing of the post office in Freistatt in 2013, postal officials appeared in Purdy at a town meeting called to coincide with the monthly city council meeting to announce plans to reopen the post office in town.

“We, by law, don’t cancel a post office,” said Vee Spikes, real estate specialist and manager for the Great Lakes Region of the U.S. Postal Service. “The condition of the building was uninhabitable for our postal people. It was closed for safety reasons.”

Postal service for Purdy was transferred to Monett in April, and has operated out of the Pierce City post office since June.

Spikes was part of the facilities implementation team that spoke to around 50 people gathered at Purdy City Hall for the meeting. Included in the team was Darrin Gadson, mid-America marketing manager; John Ronney, architectural manager; Melissa Pfluke, district financial manager; Tom Flynn, area manager of postal operations out of Kansas City; and Jonathan May, Purdy postmaster.

Spikes said that revenue generated by local post office is important.

“Funding is a lot [of the decision to have a post office],” Spikes said. “A post office is funded through stamps and anything that we sell in retail. To bring it back depends on the community contributing to make it a success.”

However, Gadson said he had no information on how much revenue the Purdy post office was producing or what level of business was needed to justify reopening it.

“It’s about service,” Gadson said.

Likewise, Pfluke stressed that retention of the post office did not depend on cash flow.

“Usually, a Level 18 post office will not generate enough revenue to pay for itself,” Pfluke said.

According to the USPS, Level 18 post offices are small to medium-sized facilities managed by postmasters paid at an Executive Administrative Schedule 18 level. Postmasters at level 18 facilities may remotely manage the operations of up to 10 post offices.

The statements about Purdy’s office stood in direct contrast to declarations made by postal officials in 2011, when they spoke in Freistatt. On that occasion, cash flow was tantamount in preserving the office and specific figures were provided to establish a viable operation.

The freeze in closing post offices announced in 2012 did not stop the closing of the Freistatt post office. Postal officials announced they could not reach a lease agreement with the owner of the building used and closed the office when the lease expired. According to the owner, no new lease was ever offered.

Purdy residents still had to meet another requirement to secure a new post office. Spikes announced a 30-day comment period would conclude on Dec. 13, during which time residents would have the opportunity to submit written comments supporting the return of the post office. Comments should be sent to Spikes at the U.S. Postal Service at the temporary address of 1211 Towanda Ave., Room 135 Bloomington, Ill., 61701. Written comments were preferable to email, Spikes said, since it would be forwarded to other officials in Washington, D.C.

Bob Utter, a mail carrier who attended the meeting, said relocating service operations out of Pierce City added significant and undue expense to providing mail to Purdy.

“I’ve seen such a waste,” he said. “Everybody wants us to come back.”

Failure of people to respond, he said, would be “the only reason” the post office would consider moving elsewhere.

The time that passed before the postal team arrived, according to Spikes, stemmed from the internal post office process. The proposal had to be vetted and advanced through the local and district levels. A budget had now been approved, allowing the process to advance to the point of finding a new site.

The next step involved finding a suitable new building. A structure has been erected at 100 Washington Ave., at the northwest corner with Commercial Street, that has widely been considered as the proposed replacement for the post office, though no sign has been placed on the site to explain the building’s presence.

Spikes said the post office is seeking room for a 1,777-square-foot building that would be labeled “alternate quarters” for the post office, property that would be used as a retail space. An ideal location would also have room for 10 parking spaces.

Spikes said the proposed building, viewed by the team during its visit, was only 1,609 square feet. According to Ronney, the structure could be modified to meet the requirements.

Part of the purpose of the public meeting, Spikes said, was to give all interested persons an opportunity to propose a site or offer a building for consideration. After a site had been selected, the postal service would sign a lease for making modifications or constructing a new building.

Ronney indicated weather would play a major factor in how long it would take to complete and reopen a post office. Depending on the availability of subcontractors, he thought that after bids were let and a contract signed, construction would take from nine to 12 months. He guessed the process would not take that long.

Once completed, Spikes anticipated the post office would sign a 10-year lease on the new building.

Mayor Bo Prock echoed the sentiments of the audience by saying the city council would write and affirm the community’s desire to have its post office back.

Spikes said writing to Congressional officials at this point could only slow down the process. He noted Congressional involvement proves useful when the post office is not moving forward on a project. The only reason, he said, that the postal service would close a post office now is because no alternative quarters were available.

“We apologize for the inconvenience,” Spikes said. “We are here. Any time you see us in own, we are here to move things forward. We have too many projects on our books. We want to wrap this one up and move on.

“Right now we have a viable option. We evaluate all options. It’s not just a one-and-done deal.”

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