By Fred Catlin and John Fox Sullivan
Late last Thursday, we learned through a third party that the Post Office had chosen to move its location from the Town of Washington to a site two miles away on Bank Road between Union Bank & Trust and the Rappahannock County Elementary School. Although we had been in discussion with postal officials for nearly two years, the Post Office did not and has not officially informed the town. There has been no public discussion as to their choice of the new location. Issues of traffic, safety and adjacency to the elementary school have not been addressed by county residents.
The Post Office chose not to renew its existing lease due to its small size, limited parking and truck access. The transformation of the Post Office from a letter-handling business to a box-handling business has dramatically changed its requirements. We understand this. The town initially offered an existing building (Dr. Jerry Martin’s office) which we had reason to believe would meet their needs. During a January 2018 Town Council meeting, Rick Hancock from the Post Office expressed a preference for a retrofit of an existing building and a sensitivity to town and many county residents’ desire to keep the building within the town limits. Yet, the Post Office rejected our proposal and chose a location two miles south of town and in the southern most location within the 22747 Zip code.
The town then partnered with Mid Atlantic Postal Services to construct a new building meeting all of the Post Office requirements on available property within the town. Our partner has a long history of developing postal facilities within the Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia area. They know what the post office needs are and designed space to meet those needs. This proposal was rejected last week. The town has yet to be informed as to the reasons for this decision.
Why keep the Post Office in town
Although no survey reflecting location preference has been taken of 22747 Zip code residents, the following facts are relevant.
The largest customers of the Post Office are located within blocks of the town’s proposed location and within walking distance. They include virtually all the county functions: Revenue Office, Treasurer’s Office, Emergency Services Officer, Commonwealth Attorney, Social Services Office, County Health Department, the Circuit Court system, the District Court system and the Sheriff’s department. Other government agencies include some of the town’s administrative offices.
Regarding the commercial sector, The Inn at Little Washington, the second largest employer in the County, is located in town. In addition, the town is the home of the Rappahannock News as well as numerous businesses, law firms, galleries, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, retail stores and the like which use the Post Office. The great bulk of the current post office business is local to the town. On any given day, approximately 250 people work in town.
That said, the town is readily accessible to the out-of-town, 22747 Zip Code residents. This is in stark contrast to the Post Office’s chosen location which is in the southernmost location of the Zip Code. For the bulk of 22747 customers, the alternative location is nearly two miles further away from the existing location.
The entire process has been opaque and non-transparent. We have always sensed that there were some behind-the scenes-machinations that we did not fully understand. We were not allowed to meet with any postal officials other than at a Town presentation by Rick Hancock in January 2018.
Call to action
The Town’s future economic growth, viability and daily community interactions are highly dependent upon the Post Office remaining within the Town. As mayor and former mayor, we strongly urge residents and businesses of the Town and the County to express their concerns about moving the Post Office outside of Town for the first time in 215 years.
If you should agree with us please write or call either or both of the following:
District Manager, Northern Virginia
8409 Lee Highway
Merrifield, VA 22081-9996
(703) 698-6609 (FAX)
475 L’enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20260
Catlin is the mayor of Washington; Sullivan is former mayor.