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Post office relocation still causing stir

Published 3:19 pm, Thursday, February 20, 2014

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  • A customer at the post office's mobile unit on Pine Street in New Canaan Friday morning, Feb. 14, 2014. Customers and town officials have said the truck is inconvenient, especially under inclement weather conditions, but U.S. Postal Service officials say the mobile unit is "very temporary." Photo: Nelson Oliveira / New Canaan News
    A customer at the post office's mobile unit on Pine Street in New Canaan Friday morning, Feb. 14, 2014. Customers and town officials have said the truck is inconvenient, especially under inclement weather conditions, but U.S. Postal Service officials say the mobile unit is "very temporary." Photo: Nelson Oliveira

 

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A month after leaving its location of more than 50 years on Pine Street, the New Canaan post office still is facing criticism about its transition.

After numerous complaints to town officials about the lack of parking near one of the post office's temporary sites, 90 Main St., the Police Commission agreed Feb. 3 to allow three new 15-minute parking spots right in front of the location.

The area, however, coincides with a loading zone from 7 to 11 a.m. The decision, according to Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tucker Murphy, would disturb deliveries to businesses in the area.

Commission members said they recognized that "there is no easy solution to the situation" that would please both business owners and postal customers, according to the minutes of their meeting.

The New Canaan post office shut down operations at 2 Pine St. on Jan. 18. Since then, customers have been picking up their mail at the Main Street site while a mobile unit has been offering retail and mailing services on the corner of Park and Pine streets.

The Chamber of Commerce and town offices have continued to field calls from unhappy customers, Murphy said. She called the move out of Pine Street very disorganized.

"I'm very disappointed at how the post office has been handling the transition," she said.

Murphy, who is also a member of the Town Council, said she expected the transition to go more smoothly since the postal service knew for months that it would have to vacate 2 Pine St. She said it's been a "total lack of planning."

It was more than a year of negotiations between the postal service and Elm Street Partners before the two failed to reach an agreement to renew the lease for the Pine Street location.

Another cause of concern has been the post office's mobile unit across from the old location. When the post office announced it would offer retail services in a mobile unit, Murphy said she expected a trailer, not something that "looks like a food truck." Murphy said the truck is inconvenient, especially during inclement weather conditions.

U.S. Postal Service spokesman Maureen Marion said the truck, which arrived a month ago, is "very temporary." She said the Main Street location is being reconfigured so it can accommodate all postal services, but she could not estimate how long that would take. Marion also called it a "stop-gap, short-term situation."

"We're working absolutely every day to make this better and better for New Canaan," Marion said. "It has clearly been a bit of a struggle, but there's no question that our priority in Connecticut right now is New Canaan."

If a deal for a new permanent site is in the near future, it still would take up to two months to "postalize" that space, as a USPS spokesman has said. In other words, the post office would have to consider factors such as loading and parking capacities, insurance needs and water availability.

Murphy said she doesn't believe the Main Street location is very temporary. "I think they're going to be there for at least a year," she said.

Marion said there is no timetable and she has no idea how long the post office would stay on Main Street.

"Our need to transition takes some time," she said. "But we're absolutely going to get a permanent location."

Marion said similar situations have happened elsewhere in the state.

David Mastroianni Jr., the Postal Service's Connecticut Valley district manager, said in a news release earlier this month that the search continues for potential new sites in town.

"We are very committed to keeping our promise to the New Canaan community to provide a post office in New Canaan and will provide regular updates to the community as we pursue that goal," Mastroianni said. "We appreciate the town's patience and understanding during the transition as we continue to move forward with this project."

Jennifer Thompson, a New Canaan resident who went to 90 Main St. thinking she could mail a package from there, said she finds it easier to go to the post office in Pound Ridge, N.Y. -- which is about five miles away from downtown, but just as far from her house -- than dealing with the two different temporary locations in New Canaan.

"It would be great if they could find a permanent location soon," she said.

Another change that was recently announced was the expansion of the hours of operation at the Main Street location. Customers now can pick up their mail from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson