The tail that wags the dog

James C. Miller III

During the past week Demaris and I have received several comments from patrons of the 22747 ZIP Code. Some were positive; some were negative; all were informative. I was dismayed, however, that few making critical comments had actually read my letter to the editor in last week’s Rappahannock News, where I laid out my reasoning why the Postal Service’s decision to locate the new post office on Bank Road is the best of the alternatives (“County seat doesn’t own post office,” Rappahannock News, February 7, 2019, A4). So, I beg of you who haven’t please read that letter!

Here are my responses to a few of the critical comments I have heard so far.

First, many of those demanding that the post office remain in its current location point to its role as a community meeting place — where you get to know your neighbors, exchange stories, etc. I suspect those who make this argument haven’t visited the ZIP 22747 post office lately: there is not a single chair in which to sit and converse, and the standing room available to customers is meager.

Second, and moreover, to those who maintain that the post office must remain in its current location, that’s simply out of the question. Since the owner of the building refused to make the necessary accommodations for size of office space, provision for truck access, parking, and ADA compliance, the post office has to move. The only question is where.

Third, town leaders identified a number of locations, all of which were considered and evaluated by the Postal Service — and found lacking. As has been noted before, the major growth in postal services is packages, not letter mail, and thus more room is needed — a need that will only grow over time.

Fourth, the location chosen by USPS on Bank Road will be larger, have more parking, more access for trucks delivering packages, more boxes to lease, provisions for the handicapped, and maybe even a few chairs in its lobby for patrons to sit and converse. It will be a new building, designed specifically for postal services, and thus will avoid periodic, often disruptive, negotiations over leases. But detractors make a number of specific criticisms:

  1. It will necessitate the installation of a stoplight (and, everyone knows that Rappahannock prides itself at having no stoplights!). No, Bank Road is not a cross street. There will be no stoplight.

B. It will increase congestion. Possibly, but postal patrons will learn to avoid times when the school buses arrive or depart in the mornings and in the afternoons. Congestion in the Town of Washington, however, will be reduced.

C. The residents of the Town will now have to drive two miles to the new post office to pick up their mail. Doubtful. The Postal Service almost surely will provide rural delivery of Town mail.

D. The decision to build on Bank Road comes as a bolt out of the blue; no one has had a chance to respond to this proposal. Not true. Recall that USPS regional representative Hancock visited Rappahannock over a year ago, made a presentation at the Town Hall, listened to citizens’ views, and requested further comments from interested persons — all of which was described in the Rappahannock News. Last September, USPS district manager Becker communicated the decision to locate on Bank Road after a review of several location proposals within the Town and several without. And recall all the activity of town leaders after that announcement to convince the Postal Service to change its mind and locate the new post office at the intersection of Leggett Lane and Warren Avenue.

Finally, consider the current, well-intentioned effort of town leaders to petition the Postal Service to reconsider its decision once again — rumored to have resulted in yet another pause in postal construction (“Petition drive underway to challenge post office move,” Rappahannock News, February 7, 2019, p. A6). If true, this constitutes a delay on top of the earlier delays — all caused by town leaders who think they know what is best for ZIP 22747 postal patrons outside the town as well as those inside the town. In an effort to hold onto “their” post office, the town’s leaders would be the tail that wags the dog.

Enough is enough. Let’s get on with it!

The writer, a resident of Rappahannock County, is former chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, former director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and former chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service.

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