‘No final decision . . . . We are still evaluating our options’
Two weeks after announcing its decision was final to move the Washington Post Office into a brand new facility to be built two miles south of the county seat and the U.S. Postal Service this week suddenly changed course, confirming it is once again considering two site options, one inside town limits.
Jeffrey Becker, USPS Northern Virginia District Manager, told Town Clerk Laura Dodd by telephone late Tuesday that two potential building locations were once again under consideration and a final decision would be formally announced within the next several weeks.
It’s assumed Becker was referring to the vacant lot on Leggett Lane being pushed by town officials and the lot on Bank Road south of Washington near Union Bank & Trust.
At the same time, a top USPS spokesman in Washington, D.C., confirmed separately Tuesday that it was too early to write off the historic county seat’s 215-year-old post office.
“No final decision had been made regarding site selection for relocation of the Washington, VA, Post Office,” USPS Manager of Strategic Communications Tom Ouellette wrote to this newspaper. “We are still evaluating our options.”
The apparent change of heart by Postal officials came only days after Washington Mayor Fred Catlin and former Washington Mayor John Fox Sullivan issued a public “call to action” to save the post office, warning that the town’s future viability and economic growth was hanging in the balance.
In an op-ed published in the Rappahannock News, Catlin and Sullivan urged residents and businesses of both the town and county to make their concerns known to the USPS, going so far as to provide telephone contacts for Becker and David Williams, USPS Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President.
Town Council officials also recently launched on the sidewalk in front of the Washington Post Office on Main Street a petition drive to register opposition to its removal from the town. Letters have also readied to send to federal and state representatives, requesting a review of what arguably has been been a confusing USPS decision-making process.
On Tuesday evening, meanwhile, Catlin and Sullivan took turns addressing the Rappahannock County School Board about the proposed Bank Road location, within close proximity of the county’s elementary school.
“You’ve got a stake in this,” the board was reminded by Sullivan, who cautioned that a proposed new 3,000-square-foot facility would bring a “significant increase in traffic” and resulting “safety issues.”
“All I know is what I’ve read in the paper,” board member Larry Grove commented just before the former mayor spoke, which was the precise point Sullivan intended to make.
“Has there been any public discussion?” he asked. “No.”
“Have they [USPS] asked anybody in the school system for input?” said Sullivan. “No.”
“Have they asked the sheriff for her input in terms of safety issues?” he continued. “No.”
“Is there any specifics about the proposal that are public yet? No.”
“Do we know how much traffic the post office estimates will be coming from the town of Washington? No.”
“It seems to me it’s worthy of a public discussion,” Sullivan concluded, suggesting the board at a minimum request a USPS representative brief them on potential postal impacts on the school environment. He also encouraged school board members to “pressure” VDOT into conducting a traffic impact study of the Bank Road site, acknowledging one might otherwise not be required given the location’s commercial zoning.
“As John Sullivan said, you’re going to have an extraordinary amount of traffic coming in,” Catlin said after following his predecessor to the podium. “You’ve got U-turns, you’ve got a number of other things. There is a question as to whether this will lead to a traffic light at that intersection.”
“I don’t have any data,” admitted School Board Chairman Wes Mills. “I don’t think there’s anything to base anything off of yet. It would be good to know . . . . It’s on the radar.”