Despite efforts by Camas residents, businesses and city officials, the U.S. Postal Service has decided to close the post office that has sat in the heart of downtown for 70 years.
The Postal Service is putting the red brick building at 440 N.E. Fifth Ave. up for sale in the coming weeks and will move its operations to the annex building in east Camas. The annex, at 2455 S.E. Eighth Ave., currently serves as the hub for mail carriers in the area but does not offer services to the public. There will be no layoffs as a result of the consolidation.
The U.S. Postal Service plans to remodel the annex to accommodate the 710 post office boxes and retail lobby and will close the doors to the downtown office by the end of the year, said Ron Anderson, U.S. Postal Service customer relations coordinator.
“It’s overall in the best interest to consolidate the operations instead of having two locations,” Anderson said.
But downtown business owners don’t see it that way.
“You’re taking a sound establishment from the core of downtown, which will have a detriment to the downtown businesses,” said Brent Erickson, executive director of the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce. “With businesses that have moved out of the area or closed up shop, we’ll have that much less of a walking traffic down here.”
The post office attracts dozens, if not hundreds, of people to the downtown area each day. Without that foot traffic, businesses will also likely see fewer customers, Erickson said.
“Downtown businesses are hurting as they are because of the economy,” he said. “This just doesn’t need to happen.”
But it’s the economy that is also hurting the Postal Service and fueled the consolidation decision, Anderson said.
The Postal Service is self-supporting and only receives revenue through the sale of its products and services. It does not receive taxpayer money, Anderson said. The decision to consolidate rather than operate two facilities one mile apart will save the Postal Service money by cutting down on transportation and operations costs, he said.
“There was a time when the economy was on the grow, and along with the economy growing, mail was growing,” Anderson said. “And now that the economy has turned around in the wrong way, unfortunately. … we’re looking at ways of still maintaining services and reduce the overhead costs it requires to provide those services.”
The Postal Service accepted public comment on the consolidation until mid-January. The city of Camas, the chamber and numerous people in the community took the opportunity to ask the Postal Service to keep the downtown office open. Residents also submitted a petition with more than 20 pages of signatures. But the concerns appear to have fallen upon deaf ears, Erickson said.
Erickson said the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce never even received a response to the letter it submitted in late December.
The city also expressed several concerns, particularly that the Postal Service had not met all of the requirements within the city’s codes that would allow it to move operations to the annex, Mayor Paul Dennis said.
The city was essentially “blown-off” by the Postal Service and said it was going to move forward with the consolidation, Dennis said. The council decided last week to submit another letter outlining the city’s concerns to the Postal Service.
Anderson said the Postal Service considered the comments and information it gathered concerning operations and remodeling costs when making the decision. The Postal Service responded in writing to everyone who submitted comments and will continue to address additional concerns, he said.
Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546 or firstname.lastname@example.org.