The Washington Post Office is moving into the 21st century (like it or not), but not moving from the corner of Main and Middle streets.
One change that Postmaster Tina Brooks said this week that she’s heard complaints about from customers over the last month is the office’s recent enforced adherence to a U.S. Postal Service regulation that requires all mail — even from such rural outlets as Washington — to be sorted at a full-service regional facility.
The Postal Service change was actually enacted several years ago, for the usual post-911 security reasons, to better screen dangerous substances or materials — but not implemented in many rural offices, including the one in Washington (which has never, to Brooks’ knowledge, had an incident involving dangerous substances being sent in the mail to local addresses).
“I must have missed that memo,” said Brooks, referring to the postal service change. The Washington post office, since long before Brooks’ arrival, had continued until last month to stamp and deliver mail destined for the Washington zip code — in house. Now local mail — and all mail — is shipped to the postal facility in Merrifield, in Fairfax County, to be sorted and shipped back; thus a letter mailed from Washington to Washington can take three to five days to arrive.
If you’re mailing something locally that needs to arrive the next day, however, Brooks said she’s told customers to let her know, and to hand the mail to her at the counter (since the “22747 Only” mail slot is now gone), “and we will make sure it gets there.”
Meanwhile, the other changes at the post office — renovations to the building itself and to the stub end of Middle Street and the parking area behind the building the postal facility shares with the Country Cafe and others, a building and property owned by the Inn at Little Washington — will likely take several months more to complete.
That’s the latest word from Inn attorney David Fiske, who said this week that negotiations for a long-term lease continue with the postal service, and that discussions most recently have centered on the Inn’s proposed configuration of the large parking area (and now only 18-foot wide access road) behind and beside the building. Fiske said the customer access to the new postal office is all agreed, to be moved to the Middle Street side of the building, along with an awning, greenery, sidewalks and other landscape improvements; the negotiations are focused now on a new rear entrance and access for mail trucks.
Fiske said interior renovations to the post office, and exterior improvements to the building itself, probably won’t begin until the parking/access issues outside are settled and the road and parking area completed.
The post office and its post boxes and counter will move out of the small Main Street-facing space, which is several steps up from the rear section of its current space, now used for sorting and storage, into a single-level, handicapped-accessible space accessed from Middle Street, Fiske said. There have been several reports that the Inn’s proprietor and chef, Patrick O’Connell, would like to open a small bakery in the small Main Street space, next door to the Country Cafe.