Originally Published: November 27, 2018 9:50 p.m.
Ever since the days of 2-cent postage stamps, Prescott letters, boxes, and postcards have originated from the imposing granite U.S. Post Office building on Goodwin Street.
That could come to an end soon, if the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) moves ahead with plans to put the 1931-era building up for sale and relocate the downtown post office to a yet-to-be-determined nearby site.
Sandra Rybicki, a Texas-based real estate specialist with the U.S. Postal Service, appeared before the Prescott City Council at a Tuesday, Nov. 27, study session to notify the community of the possibility, and to outline the coming process.
Noting that the Postal Service uses only about 9,000 square feet of the 25,778-square-foot building at the corner of Goodwin and Cortez streets, Rybicki said a smaller building would more efficiently meet the needs of the downtown post office.
She led off the discussion by pointing out that while an evaluation of the building’s future is underway, a number of federally-mandated steps would have to occur before a final decision is made.
The first step in the mandated process occurred on Nov. 8, when the Postal Service sent a letter to Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli. The two-page letter stated: “The Postal Service is considering relocation because the current location is larger than is typically required to conduct our on-going operations.”
The impetus for the evaluation is the Postal Service’s continued financial losses, which are estimated to total more than $5 billion in 2018. The letter to Mengarelli noted that “Despite significant cost reductions, the Postal Service continues to experience a net loss as mail volume continues to decline because of increased electronic communication.”
With that in mind, Rybicki said, the Postal Service is “always looking for ways to reduce costs, consolidate operations.”
Council members took no official stand on the matter at Tuesday’s meeting, and they suggested discussing the city’s position during a meeting on Dec. 18.
Still, several council members appeared to view the sale of the building as inevitable. Much of the discussion focused on future uses of the building, and whether the city would be allowed to be involved in specifying the ultimate uses for the historic site.
“At the end of the day, I know you guys need to move,” Councilman Jim Lamerson told Rybicki. “What you have doesn’t fit your needs.”
But, Lamerson said, “I’m an elected official for the City of Prescott, and we’re dealing with a historic building in downtown Prescott.”
Councilman Phil Goode added, “If you decide to close (the post office), which you probably will, the disposal process will be publicly bid … and aren’t you required to sell to the highest bidder?”
Rybicki responded that the sale would be a negotiated process, and that no mandate exists for selling to the highest bidder.
City Manager Michael Lamar suggested that the city be allowed to be involved in compiling the request for proposals for the sale. “There are obviously projects that would be more beneficial, and less beneficial, based on what kind of bid you get,” he said.
Lamerson added: “What you do in downtown Prescott — the first Territorial Capital — is going to impact us significantly.”
Ultimately, Rybicki told the council she would work to arrange a meeting between USPS officials and city officials.
Although about 11,000 square feet of the post office building previously was leased by the U.S. Governmental Services Administration (GSA) for federal courtroom space, Rybicki told the council, “Attempts were made to renegotiate acceptable terms, but they were unsuccessful.”
In spring 2014, The Daily Courier reported that the federal court had vacated the space in the U.S. Post Office because of concerns about water damage from a leaky roof. Currently, Rybicki said, much of the building is unused and vacant.
The goal, she said, is to find a space for a relocated “retail” postal office within 1 mile of the existing site.
The public is invited to comment on the matter prior to a final decision on the potential sale. The deadline for public comments is Dec. 27.
Rybicki directed the public to send comments on the matter to: Sandra A. Rybicki, Real Estate Specialist; USPS Real Estate & Assets; 660 Data Drive, Suite 200; Plano, Texas, 75075-9931.
After the end of the public comment period, Rybicki said the USPS would notify Mengarelli of the decision, and would send out a press release. That probably would occur sometime in January, she said.
Depending on the decision, the process for sale of the building could then begin. Throughout the process, Rybicki said, the post office at the corner of Goodwin and Cortez streets would remain open.