US Postal Service considers closing the Northfield Post Office

Northfield Post Office Northfield Post Office Northfield Post Office Northfield Post Office

Nfld Patch: Downtown Northfield Post Office Could Close

Peter Nowacki, a spokesperson for the United States Post Office, said Monday that the Northfield branch is one of 16,000 sites nationwide being considered for closure.

Nfld News: Downtown post office on the chopping block

While the closing, if it does occur, would likely impact the traffic in the city’s historic business district, the reduction would be temporary, said the city’s economic development director, Jody Gunderson. “I don’t see it staying empty long,” he said. “It’s a phenomenal building. I don’t think it would be very difficult to figure out a reuse for it.”

It seems like a perfect location for a local Northfield church. But maybe there are better reuses for the building?

Update 4/6: I’ve added a recent photo of the exterior and 3 other photos of the interior. I’ve also removed the “Churches to compete for space?” from the blog post title.

186 Comments

  1. Michelle Hawkins said:

    Parking Lot! Hot PinK Painted Church! OU! I know what we need.. another bar!

    Yes, I am joking around here, but if it can happen in Dundas…

    Seriously NoW is the time to consider just how much we respect history and it’s preservation, and make that voice heard.

    I love our downtown and it’s historic distrct feel, and I love church music of all kinds, I just don’t want both breaking my Summer Sunday Morning Coffee Peace there.

    March 9, 2011
  2. How about a visitor/welcome center for Northfield? There is room for buses to come into downtown and park and turn around. The building would be perfect for that.

    March 9, 2011
  3. Greg Burnett said:

    A visitor center would be nice, and I’d pretty much support anything over a church, but I’d rather have a post office! It’s a beautiful one.

    March 9, 2011
  4. Patrick Enders said:

    The new corporate offices of LGN, Inc.?

    March 9, 2011
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Hmmm. Might it be a good location for the most of the Police Department? Then the current Safety Center, rehabbed and expanded, could be the Fire Department, with ancillary PD offices.

    March 9, 2011
  6. kiffi summa said:

    Instead of all assuming that our DT Post office will be closed, why not lobby our legislators to NOT allow it to close?

    A Post Office is a core service that should be in the Downtown; if increments of core downtowns keep disappearing, then so will the Core centrality of the town.

    Write to your legislators…

    March 9, 2011
  7. Beth Kallestad said:

    Considering the lousy service we’ve gotten at my place of work for the Northfield post office I wouldn’t cry if it closed.

    March 9, 2011
  8. norman butler said:

    Police station? A more to-scale City Hall?

    March 9, 2011
  9. Steph Henriksen said:

    I agree with Kiffi. Let’s work to keep it open. So handy to mail letters and packages and bump into people. The building sort of enfolds you as you walk up to it.

    March 9, 2011
  10. Patrick Enders said:

    With electronic communication replacing the bulk of former mail business, the USPS is becoming little more than a shipping company, in direct competition with FedEx and UPS.

    Some contraction of the USPS’s footprint seems inevitable (absent outside subsidies), and the downtown facility doesn’t seem all that essential to the USPS’s core business of delivering mail and packages door-to-door.

    It is a fabulous building, though, and I suspect that any number of public or private uses could provide a similar (or greater) benefit to the vitality of downtown, relative to that now provided by the USPS office.

    March 9, 2011
  11. Jane Moline said:

    A terrible tragedy for downtown Northfield. Many businesses and locals keep their PO Box–it will be a hardship for them to change their delivery options. Tough on downtown.

    Good thing the Economic Development guy from the city will have an easy time getting a new tenant! Too bad it is so difficult for the downtown building owners to do so!

    March 9, 2011
  12. William Siemers said:

    I agree that change is in store for the USPS. They have to get some efficiency into the business. But how about closing the Dundas P.O. The one in Dennison? Nerstrand? Lonsdale? Or they could stop Saturday delivery all together.

    March 9, 2011
  13. Patrick Enders said:

    William,
    Are you sure none of those are on the list of 16,000 possible closures?

    March 9, 2011
  14. I am not sure if they are, but as someone that lives in Nerstrand I hope the do not close the PO out there. I hope the do not close the one in downtown.

    March 9, 2011
  15. As a person who often used the handicap accessible Dundas U.S.Post Service office with it’s own parking lot, I would not like to see it closed. It is efficient and I always saw traffic in and out of there.

    The Northfield USPS does have a wonderful building and a goodly amount of traffic I think will probably not be closed any time soon.

    March 9, 2011
  16. john george said:

    Actually, the bulk of the postal work is accomplished in the new facility off South Hwy. 3 and Honeylocust, behind the Kwik Trip there. The only functions at the downtown location are the postal boxes and the two walk-up windows. It is my understanding that the volume of mail had increased to the point that there was insufficient room at the downtown facility for the various delivery vehicles. Since there was no room for expansion, the new facility was built. It was only a matter of time before all the services would be moved to the new building. You insiders, am I correct in this?

    March 9, 2011
  17. Paul Zorn said:

    Bummer! I’ve admired the Northfield post office and its mural wall ever since moving here early in the Reagan administration.

    Times change, and maybe the old USPS model is waning, or even over. But let’s not let such a first-rate public building go out of public use. A branch of City Hall? Children’s library? Police station annex? There must be something.

    March 9, 2011
  18. Griff Wigley said:

    In Suzy Rook’s original Northfield News article on Monday, USPS struggle could seal post office’s fate:

    While it’s unlikely that local post office employees would lose their jobs, O’Connell said the USPS could save the $11,000 a month it costs to heat the downtown building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    $11,000/month for heat? Can that be right? That figure is not included the Wed. version of her article, Downtown post office on the chopping block.

    March 10, 2011
  19. William Siemers said:

    It is a classic WPA style building that deserves another life.
    No one wants ‘their’ post office closed, but if the country is going to have traditional mail service, the USPS will have to close facilities and revamp service. (Speaking of service why do some people get home deliver, and even rural home delivery, while others get delivery to a big box that serves 8 or 10 homes?)
    I agree with John, it is, and should be, ‘just a matter of time’ before the more modern HWY 3 facility takes over the functions of the downtown PO. If there is to be ‘citizen action’ regarding the closing, I’d suggest that it should focus on getting the building sold/leased to the city or county for a reasonable, if not nominal, amount.

    March 10, 2011
  20. Griff:

    I did not think that was right either. Later that day I had to sign something at the Post Office and I asked one of the employees about the $11,000. She told me that was not true.

    Just by happen stance I ran into Suzy later in the day and told her about that. I am assuming she is trying to correct that.

    March 10, 2011
  21. Patrick Enders said:

    William, I agree completely.

    March 10, 2011
  22. Jane McWilliams said:

    If the building is closed, whatever goes in there next must preserve the mural. It was designed by Margit Johnson who created a sort of “Paint by Numbers” system and then invited the community to help her paint it. Both building and mural are irreplacable!

    March 10, 2011
  23. Kathie Galotti said:

    Then I would strongly urge that there be some watchdog on the group that drafts the contract, and that what you propose, Jane, is specifically written in it, or we’ll end up with another Rejoice! church type fiasco!

    March 10, 2011
  24. john george said:

    I think this can be added as a covenant agreement in the purchase agreement. You legal experts, is this correct?

    March 10, 2011
  25. Brenton Balvin said:

    I don’t understand the line ‘churches to compete for space.’ Are there churches interested in the building?

    March 10, 2011
  26. David Ludescher said:

    John,

    We will have to wait to see if the building is sold and who purchases the building.

    March 10, 2011
  27. Steph Henriksen said:

    Brenton,

    Go to “Spiritual Wickedness in Dundas” topic to see what happened when Holy Cross Episcopal built in 1868 was put on the market and sold to Rejoice Church in January of 2010. The promise that the sanctuary would remain intact for weddings and funerals was not in writing. The new owner stripped the interior, planned to move graves to make room for the parking lot, etc. It is on the hill above Menards.

    March 10, 2011
  28. Steph Henriksen said:

    I spoke with a mail carrier today and he said to contact our legislators. I called Rep. Woodard’s office and he called back saying to call Congressman John Kline, which I will do tomorrow. Others could call Franken ad Klobuchar. We should bring as much attention to the importance of our post office to us as possible.

    The way Holy Cross was closed was not in conformance to its bylaws, many believe, and every means possible should have been taken to prevent the closing. Let’s do the same with our post office.

    March 10, 2011
  29. john george said:

    Steph- I don’t think the Episcopal Diocese has any connection with the USPS and the local Post Office building. It will be interesting to see if the Federal Government can do any better in their handling of this building. In either case, the decisions that will have to be made will most likely be made by people outside this community.

    March 11, 2011
  30. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m fine with lobbying Rep. Kline and whoever else to keep the Post Office open. But every community is likely to do the same and the Federal Gov’t is deep in debt.

    So IMHO, it’s better to be putting more time and energy to coming up with Plan B, C and D than a lobbying effort. It ain’t going to be easy. I can’t think of anything that would generate more downtown traffic for as many hours/day as a Post Office does.

    March 11, 2011
  31. kiffi summa said:

    Re’ closing of POs nationwide… somebody has to win and somebody has to lose…

    Let’s make sure Northfield wins. The PO is a necessary component of a healthy DT.

    March 11, 2011
  32. Ross Currier said:

    Jane –

    I, too, strongly disagree with those who suggest that losing the post office would be no big deal and that we could easily replace its contribution to the downtown economy by reusing the building.

    With a post office box located in the building’s lobby, I go to the post office every day. I am never the only person in the lobby. With two children in college, retired parents shuttling between north and south, and two brothers on the two coasts, I do a fair bit of package mailing. I am almost never alone in line.

    Common experience would suggest that few, if any, re-uses would deliver the same pedestrian traffic as the postal windows.

    I, too, am concerned that some of our leaders are so quick to give up on saving the post office and instead are ready to turn it over to reuse. It seems to me that we should approach this entity as we should approach all of our local companies – employers/service providers – and that is by asking “HOW CAN WE KEEP YOU HERE?”

    The postal service has 32,000 branches, apparently 16,000 are considered expendable. Last year, they closed 500. So will 15,500 of those at risk remain open, continuing to serve their communities? Let’s put our energy into having our 1935 WPA masterpiece, and one of our key economic drivers, be one of the thousands that are saved.

    March 13, 2011
  33. Megan Tsui said:

    Plan B: A restaurant called “The Post Office” with good food and great atmosphere. Keep the PO Boxes and people could leave treasures for the next guests to find. Historic tax credits could help offset the costs of renovations. If it does close- Northfield business owners are very clever and someone will make good use of it!

    March 14, 2011
  34. Shodo Spring said:

    As a new person in town, I want to share a story from my last home, Bloomington, Indiana. They wanted to close our downtown post office and replace the “customer service” aspect with in-store branches. There was a meeting, with minimal public notice. Dozens of people showed up to protest and speak against it (5 minutes each) and when we were done, the move was stopped.

    March 14, 2011
  35. Bobbi Bolton said:

    No, I don’t think that was ever the intention. We simply outgrew the space and it was also so difficult to get the tractor-trailers that brought the mail from St. Paul into the dock. At that same time, the annex facility was always referred to as the “carrier annex” and, clearly, was not for customers. Our postmasters and supervisors do not want contact with the general public. The annex would likely require an addition in order for this merger to occur. Currently, it is a secure facility and, until now, if a customer went to the annex and rang the bell, the supervisor would not even answer the door….even when he saw that individual standing at the door. (I’ve just retired from the downtown post office)

    March 17, 2011
  36. Bobbi Bolton said:

    That is a great story. We have always been under the understanding, within the Post Office culture, that the only option the public has to effect change/or to have any voice is through communications with our local legislators. Although the closing is by no means a “done deal,” I had hoped for more resistance to the idea. It’s such a beautiful, integral part of downtown Northfield. It’s like the flagship store for Bridge Square. My mother, age 86, remembers attending the opening (in 1936?).. some type of evening event and she says people were very excited about this new facility.

    March 17, 2011
  37. Steph Henriksen said:

    Rep. Kline’s office called today to say they got my email and calls from others. His aide said there were meetings this week and the Postmaster General would be calling our mayor.

    Please contact Mayor Rossing immediately so she will put up some resistance rather than just roll over to this as some on this blog seem inclined to do….

    March 17, 2011
  38. William Siemers said:

    I agree that the p.o. is important to the community. It is also a business competing with other businesses. Of course it is a different kind of business since it is backed by the federal government and so subject to political pressure. And it holds a kind of monopoly on the (rapidly shrinking) delivery of hard copy letters and magazines, etc. But it is a business nonetheless, and must operate efficiently or be subsidized by taxpayers who may or may not use it all, or some of the particular services it offers. So, a modest proposal:

    For each facility that the postal service wants to close but can not because of political pressure, let a cost be established for the inefficiency of keeping it open. Then charge the customers of that particular post office a fee on every visit that, in the aggregate, is adequate to cover the cost of that inefficiency.

    March 18, 2011
  39. kiffi summa said:

    I think there is a part of this picture that’s being missed; that is that the Federal Government , and both political parties , keep telling us that the biggest generator and ongoing support of jobs and job creation are the small businesses of this country…. AND:
    The downtown Post office is virtually like a piece of infrastructure to support those small businesses, retailers, and offices in our core downtown.

    To me it would be shortsighted to damage a working component of those small job sustaining/creating businesses for a perceived economic savings ESPECIALLY when there will be a LARGE cost of reorganizing the southern annex PO facility to provide retail services.

    Closing the downtown facility will only exacerbate the USPS financial woes as more of the downtown businesses turn to the then more convenient Fed Ex, UPS, etc.

    Maybe a short term gain, but certainly a long term loss: Penny wise and Pound foolish, in the large picture.

    March 18, 2011
  40. Jane Moline said:

    William: You have a somewhat reasonable idea in charging locations for their post office–but part of the reason we have a post office is to service those that otherwise are not linked to civilization–to charge based on usage is unfair. It is something like the old Ma Bell telephone service–we should be proud to provide basic service to rural areas and provide access to services to those who are not wealthy. In some places, the post office is open every other day in order to make it more cost effective (I have a client in South Dakota where they only get their mail on certain days. Still works.)

    Closing the downtown post office in Northfield is a business disaster as it moves another core service away from downtown customers. Local banks have recently moved or curtailed their downtown bank locations, and it has been a serious hardship on the businesses. The US Post Office is a unique part of the US Government system in competing with businesses as it is not really supported by the federal governement–it is supported by the postal charges–and yet it competes with unregulated businesses that can charge whatever for the same service.

    Forcing Northfield residents to drive out to the annex for basic postal services is unfortunate in an era when we should be trying to encourage non-car living and working arrangements.

    In addition, there is limited reuse ability for the current building. All the reasons that the post office wants to abandon it are the same as the ones that no one else will want to use it. About the only thing it could work as would be a museum.

    March 19, 2011
  41. William Siemers said:

    Jane…I do not understand why I should be proud to subsidize mail delivery to individual homes in the country. Many of the occupants of these houses are not poor. In fact more than a few are driving around in air conditioned tractors while getting real time quotes on commodity prices. “Not wealthy”??? Are you kidding? I’m sure you are aware of what grains are selling for, not to mention the value of farm land.

    Ok, I know there are rural poor…but even they have cars, not to mention tv, radio and internet. And are any of these rural residents really isolated? This is not 1920 when farmers didn’t have electricity and came to town once a week. There has got to be a more cost effective way to deliver their mail than having a driver make stops at each rural household six days a week. (That is, by the way, six more times a week than I get mail deliver to my individual household and I live within the city limits).

    And how is it that the poor in town are helped by keeping the existing post office open? If it closed, they would still get mail delivery and pickup, and package delivery, at their houses (or within a block or so of their house). And, if they have a package to mail, they can go to Graphic Mailbox and chose from three delivery methods, including USPS. And isn’t Graphic Mailbox downtown?

    Anyway…I still think the USPS should be able to operate like a business. And if, because of political pressure, it can not, then it should be allowed to recoup the cost of that inefficiency from those who demand the continued use of the outdated facility. I’m afraid however that this would result in a big drop in the customer base since that surtax would be substantial. (If the net cost of the inefficiency was $300,000, or $1000 a day, the surcharge would be a dollar per customer based on 1000 customers going through the p.o. door each day.)

    So maybe the cost should be paid by the downtown interests who stand to be hurt the most by the closing…add it to their property tax. Or, taking the view that what’s good for downtown is good for the entire community, we could all pay to keep it open…just another line on everyone’s property tax statement…Let’s put that to a vote.

    March 20, 2011
  42. Michelle Hawkins said:

    William I see good points on both sides of this issue. In your plan you have to add in a missing fact I and many others (poor, elderly, & disabled)who really don’t have cars)had personal experience with.

    When I lived at Greenvale Apts I ordered something via the internet so I didn’t have to take a taxi to the store. To my surprise instead of a package, I received a postal notice to come pick up my package at the post office downtown.

    This wasn’t a huge inconvenience, but enough so I inquired why the carrier didn’t deliver it. I was told when packages are too big for the address box at an apartment or multibox delivery, they don’t waste their time going to the door of the address anymore.

    Now if I had needed to get to the other facility instead of downtown, in a cab would have cost me well over $15 roundtrip. Not something the poor, even the working poor can afford.

    Perhaps your appraisal of the less than well to do in Northfield is a wee bit off. While my situtaion has improved,many do depend on the downtown facility and are not in a position to pay “fees” either.

    March 20, 2011
  43. Jane Moline said:

    William: I was referring to the idea that postage is the same whether you are mailing a first class letter in New York to New York, or if you are mailing it to the toolies like ALASKA or SOUTH DAKOTA. Large metropolitan post offices are “subsidizing” Northfield and other lowere volume venues. If the post office in Northfield closes there will be an increased burden on home delivery and a loss of PO BOX rental revenue. This may be a reasonable trade off financially for the post office, but I bet they would lose quite a bit of business to Graphic Mailbox and to other vendors. I would think it reasonable for them to move to a cheaper store-front in the downtown, but I do not support closing the Northfield downtown post office.

    By the way, those wealthy farmers will continue to get rural delivery of their mail, which we subsidize, whether the post office closes or not.

    March 20, 2011
  44. Steph Henriksen said:

    The PATCH link did not open for me, Griff.

    As I said in Comment #25, those who want the Post Office to remain open should call Mayor Rossing to tell her so and to encourage her to get some arguments ready for when the Postmaster General’s office calls this week. Congressman Kline’s office is trying to help. Let’s take him up on it!

    Accdg to Mary, the regional office out of Colorado is sending someone to talk to the City on April 5, likely to give us the bad news. By then it is too late. Call Mary Rossing NOW or we go down to defeat.

    March 20, 2011
  45. Griff Wigley said:

    Fixed now, Steph. thx for the alert.

    March 21, 2011
  46. William Siemers said:

    Michelle…Closing the post office will not necessarily mean that those picking up ‘undeliverable’ packages would have to go to the new facility. They might use a centrally located storefront or contracted private site. Still, I’m not sure if providing the most convenient site for every person, in every situation, for every service, is part of their business plan or government mandate. If so, a poor man living on the south end of town might say that he should be entitled to pick up his box from the annex because it is too expensive for him to take a cab downtown.

    Jane…If the USPS will continue to exist without significant taxpayer subsidies it has to make changes. I sense that you agree. They have a plan that includes changes in several areas, the most important being increasing efficiency. Closing outmoded and archaic facilities around the country is central to that plan. Everyone of those contemplated closings will elicit protest. Northfield can be one of tens of thousands of towns protesting, or we can approach the USPS a different way: Ask for a small downtown presence whether contracted or operated by the USPS, along with a low cost sale or lease back of the building to the city.

    March 21, 2011
  47. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News: Unwelcome delivery: Post office to close

    The U.S. Postal Service will close the historic downtown post office, according to a letter sent to the city’s mayor.

    “The Postal Service has evaluated our facility needs and is pursuing the sale and relocation of the Northfield Post Office at 14 Bridge Square,” wrote USPS Customer Service and Sales District Manager Anthony C. Williams in a March 17 letter.

    In the letter, Williams says the building, completed in late 1936, is larger than needed and that the USPS will consolidate all postal operations at the carrier annex on Cannon Road.

    March 21, 2011
  48. john george said:

    Bobbi- Re. 14.1. This move was most likely not the original intention, but it is evidently the resulting effect.

    March 21, 2011
  49. Bobbi Bolton said:

    Mr. Siemers, It’s good to have such faith in a federal agency. The chances of the USPS maintaining a storefront for picking up packages downtown or at a private site are just totally unrealistic. It is simply not going to happen! Two of our biggest customers, Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges, will be given no consideration at all. They, as well as all of the Northfield community, will drive to the annex . The business organizations who have mass bulk mailings will go there, the churches will go there to mail their newsletters at reduced rates, the customers who hope to get their mail a little earlier in the day by renting a P.O. box will go there, the attorneys’ offices in town who need to send certified mail in order to have documentation will go there, the `people who have been on vacation and want to resume delivery of their mail and pick up their hold mail will go there. The people who need to purchase money orders in order to pay their bills will go to the annex. There are so many services that USPS provides to their customers that many are unaware of. It’s not simply a matter of picking up a package that could not be delivered. In addition, carriers are under close scrutiny and timelines so they often will not even attempt to deliver a package. It will just be left at the P.O. with a notice left.

    March 22, 2011
  50. Bobbi Bolton said:

    Just a clarification on one of your points…re: the residents of Northfield having the option of taking their packages to Graphic Mailbox. As the (just retired) only full-time downtown window clerk at the P.O., I would remind you that Graphic Mailbox is a private vendor and they are in business to make money so they have to add charges to the required postal costs (or UPS or FedEx charges). There are many time it costs much more to ship through Graphic Mailbox, obviously, then the P.O. Based on customer comments over the years, people have not always understood that, while others were willing to absorb the increased costs for the sake of convenience.

    March 22, 2011
  51. William Siemers said:

    Bobbi…My mail carrier brought a package to my door this week. It was too big to fit in the multibox package compartment. I was surprised.

    Certified mail can be done online. Vacation delivery can be arranged online and delivered when the vacation is over. Money orders can be purchased at many locations. Package pickup at your house can be arranged online. Postage, priority postage, and envelopes and flatrate boxes can all be purchased online. In fact, a whole host of services can be arranged online. Other USPS services, including shipping packages and priority mail can be purchased at downtown private vendors.

    Your objection seems based on the inconvenience (for those not on the south side of town) of having to drive a couple miles farther. I say drive because I’ll suggest that about 90% of the folks who go to the post office, drive to the post office. It’s true it will be a minor inconvenience.

    The bigger problem is the effect on downtown. It is not part of the USPS mandate to insure the viability of our downtown, or anyone’s downtown. But they are a (quasi) government agency and they should look at how they can mitigate the effects of the location change…but perhaps you are right, I have to much faith in a government agency.

    March 22, 2011
  52. when is the closing scheduled for?

    March 22, 2011
  53. Michelle Hawkins said:

    Will the city have the ability to submit input regarding how the future purchaser will treat and use the building?

    Would the city be able to say no to renovations..oh say like upward expansion employing the use of those noxious reflective glass walls, or on the opposite end, tearing it down(perhaps to build something totaaly out of character for our “historic nature” of downtown)?

    March 22, 2011
  54. A.Ripka said:

    what a bummer. DRIVING over to the annex will be an inconveinence but i will, of course, adopt. as a business owner, i will say that i do prefer being able to ship packages to customers at the best rate i can get for them. USPS thus far remains so. i also have many out-of-towners who buy cards and postcards on the fly and like to mail them out right away. sucks that i’ll have to tell them they have to drive somewhere to do it. yes, i’ll try to keep some stamps to sell behind the counter, but most of them seem happy to enjoy the walk. 😉
    on a side note: i think it would make a beautiful gallery and performing arts center. i’m sure the NAG would love to expand/move. unfortunately, it would probably cost more than they could afford.
    police station would be good, but then i have to wonder how much of that parking over there we’ll loose to all their squad cars. and parking downtown is tough to find as it is…

    March 23, 2011
  55. Michelle Hawkins said:

    Remove mine also, Griff. It adds nothing of value to the discussion.

    I really would like thoughtful answers of real possibility to the questions I posed.

    March 23, 2011
  56. Jane Moline said:

    This is a terrible tragedy for downtown Northfield. It is sometimes difficult to determine what makes and keeps a downtown area vital to the surrounding community. (At first, in Northfield it was the river and the mills that grew up around, than it was the train depot and its ability to link Northfield to the outside world, and then Hwys 3 and 19.)

    Having a post office is one of the important pieces in the economic vitality of Northfield, (and good, relevant local stores, a newspaper, bakery, and coffee houses and bars.)

    Losing the Post Office is a terrible blow to that economic vitality of downtown Northfield.

    It is embarrassing watching the inept city staff, who are supposedly professionals in the area of economic development, fail to identify the importance of this US Post Office decision and then fail to do anything to affect a positive change. ANYTHING.

    I really think if they did a $250,000 study, (or a $9,000 study), the experts would advise the city to make every attempt to get the Post Office to keep a downtown location.

    The failure to act by the city officials and staff is inexcusable. They have not even tried.

    March 23, 2011
  57. Raymond Daniels said:

    I can’t believe I am going to say this, but Jane I agree 100% with you.

    March 23, 2011
  58. Jerry Bilek said:

    I would prefer the postal service keep the downtown branch open, but the postal service is bleeding money. I think the market will adapt. graphic mailbox can help pick up the slack. I do all of my shipping from my computer and it’s pretty easy. if any business owners would like to learn how, I’m happy to show anyone what I do. I ship 5 or 6 packages a day, sometimes as many as 20.

    March 23, 2011
  59. Arlen Malecha said:

    I don’t pretend to know how the decisions on which PO buildings to close are made, but I am surprised that the Dundas post office was not closed and consolidated with the Northfield PO annex and the downtown Northfield PO left open. The Dundas PO is roughly one mile from the PO Annex so I would think it would make more sense to close the Dundas PO.

    I am sure the residents of Dundas would totally disagree with me on this analysis though.

    March 23, 2011
  60. John McCarthy said:

    I hope the PO in downtown Northfield is not closed or that an alternative method of providing service to the downtown area is achieved. That being said, I find it very typical that a desire to have government, or in this case, quasi-government, operate more like a business is fine as long as others pay for the service provided. If I understand it correctly, USPS has made a business decision that the cost of maintining a facility is more than the financial benefit derived from that facility. Since the building was built, the business model of delivering written communication and packages has undergone fundimental change. USPS now competes with e-mail, UPS, FedEx and others for a slice of what was once it’s exclusive pie.
    Here’s an idea, if enough folks want to keep the downtown location, form a corporation, partnership, LLC or whatever business entity, offer to purchase the building and lease it back to USPS at a rate which will be financially attactive to the PO.
    As a model for this business proposition, I believe you can look to Dundas, where as I understand it, a private investor leases the building to USPS. Unfortunatly, the Dundas PO will most likely never make the National Registery of Historic Buildings, but it might continue to provide a service at a price the users can afford.

    March 23, 2011
  61. Bobbi Bolton said:

    Stephanie, thank you so much for all your suggestions and guidance. At least there is some lead time with this – although not much – as compared to what happened to our beloved Church of the Holy Cross in Dundas. I think the more discussion about this the greater the chances become of some type of intervention or creative solution. What does Mary Rossing think? Or doesn’t she care?

    March 23, 2011
  62. Bobbi Bolton said:

    William, I agree with your last point. My objection has nothing to do with the incovenience of going to the annex. It’s all about the business of keeping the P.O. downtown where it belongs – in the center of the community – not out on some frontage road by a gravel pit. It’s also based on sentimentality (and there’s no room for that probably). I have such warm memories of summer days by Bridge Square. I can smell the popcorn and see the Popcorn Wagon volunteers sitting on their lawn chairs beside the tree, I can hear the water splashing over the dam and see people fishing by the wall, I can hear the little children laughing and splashing in the fountain, and, of course, people coming and going from the P.O. and visiting for a minute on the Square before heading back to work. I can see the beautiful landscaping at the P.O. that did not come easily – the result of lots of hard work and vision by the Dirty Girls gardening group and the Northfield Garden Club. I’m just sentimental, I guess. The practical side would say the P.O. needs to move out to the Annex for economic reasons.

    March 23, 2011
  63. Bobbi Bolton said:

    Jane, You are so on-the-mark. Especially, I agree with you that the City officials don’t even understand what is happening – or they don’t understand the importance of the decision. It will probably be one of those events that will be commiserated about later on when it is too late. I warned Ross Currier about my perception that the USPS was going to sell the building eventually. That was a couple of years ago. That hadn’t been stated to me, but I figured it out. The front of the building was updated with the ramp installed and Knecht’s were hired to do some landscaping. The roof was redone and the inside was repainted, as well as a new boiler system installed. (The furnace installation took all summer.) Also, my postmaster offered to give an official at Carleton a tour of our basement – a huge cavernous place. This was the same official involved in the purchase of the Middle School for Carleton. I knew then (sadly) that it was only a matter of time before they tried to “unload” it.

    March 23, 2011
  64. Bobbi Bolton said:

    Mr. McCarthy, I have heard of the P.O. doing this before. I think your proposal is a good one (i.e. a group purchasing the building and leasing it back to the P.O.)

    By the way….are you aware of the history of how the Dundas P.O. became located where it is? It was in a historic building on Railway St. next to City Hall prior to its move across the bridge to the east side of town. I attended the City Council meeting when the USPS Rep. came to meet with city officials and citizens regarding the move and proposed sites.

    March 23, 2011
  65. William Siemers said:

    It is a great old building, but great old buildings do not have to always continue their original purpose. I’m sure everyone reading this discussion has thought of a new, and maybe even, more appropriate use for the building. Buy it and lease it back to the post office? Why would they lease it back, when they don’t want it to begin with?

    Post offices do not keep downtowns healthy. If they did, there would be a many more healthy downtowns all across America. A lot of post offices operate in boarded up and semi-deserted downtowns. What helps keep downtown healthy is governments, civic groups, or just individual citizens, who seize opportunities to increase the value of outmoded downtown assets by turning them into needed assets for the future.

    March 24, 2011
  66. Helen Albers said:

    Jane,
    I totally agree with your comments, and believe it would be a terrible tragedy for Northfield to lose our downtown Post Office, which is so busy, I often must stand in a line to the front door!
    Carleton and St. Olaf have the most clout in this town, and we need them to back our need to preserve history, and contribute to the dynamics of downtown! As a VIP Travel Agent for 20 years, I used the PO every morning for our business mail. I am sure businesses still need the PO boxes downtown, not out in an annex, which the USPS must pay maybe $400,000 to make usable.
    Northfield has had enough costly studies!
    We native townies treasure this 1936 structure. We hope that new people in town feel our deep sense of history, and do not speak nonchalantly of other uses.
    Out Northfield Historical Society must join the fight to keep our PO OPEN!

    March 24, 2011
  67. Bobbi Bolton said:

    Thanks for your comments, Helen. That’s a good thought about Carleton and St. Olaf coming on board They are, of course, two of our biggest customers. Northfield Hospital is another big one. I’ll try to talk to someone there regarding the meeting on April 5. I happen to be at the hospital today.

    March 24, 2011
  68. Steph Henriksen said:

    We are so fortunate to have Bobbi’s input, as a recently retired window clerk. As Jane says, it is regrettable (inexcusable) that City of Northfield did not take hold of this issue immediately when a pending closure came to light. As of yesterday’s NNews, we now know the contents of the Mar. 17 letter to the Mayor. The Mayor does not want to take a position without Council backing, so I suggest a special Council meeting be called so the group can agree on something before Aril 5.

    The public can comment April 5 and I hope dozens of people show up. Shodo Spring’s Indiana story (#24) should give us hope that the closure here can also be stopped. PATCH is setting up a survey so we’ll have a notion of how many people want our downtown PO kept open. I’ll be checking there now.

    March 24, 2011
  69. john george said:

    Here is an intereting article I found on MSN:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42256357/ns/business-us_business/?GT1=43001

    $8.5 billion is a lot of money to lose. IMO, it is unfortunate that our own technology is our own undoing. There was a column in the last week or so about the difference between the jobs that Facebook has created and Ford Motor Co. Mr. Zuckerberg is a 30 year old billionaire, and his company produced something like 1700 jobs, if the information is correct. It seems little wonder that the USPS has a decrease in mail volume. The internet social media provide instant interaction between people at no apparent cost. Now, with the closing of many familiar (and taken-for-granted) local post offices, I think we will begin to see the real cost to society for our hunger for quick and “free” communications.

    March 24, 2011
  70. William Siemers said:

    Now I see how the lease back could work: A group of citizens or a civic organization buys the building at a fair price and leases it back to the USPS at terms they are willing to accept. My initial skepticism was based on the assumption that the lease terms would be based on market rates, or normal return on investment. It did not seem likely that the USPS would agree to a lease payment based on those normal investment criteria. But without those considerations in place the USPS might very well agree to keep services in place at the downtown building. They would get rid of a non-performing asset at a fair price and they could negotiate lease terms that reflect their expected profit or loss at the location.

    March 25, 2011
  71. Steph Henriksen said:

    Northfield Administrator’s report posted today:

    Post Office
    The Northfield Downtown Development Corporation has set up a “Save the Post Office” committee to prevent the closing of the Downtown Post Office. Council member Nakasian, at the request of Mayor Rossing, and Community Development Director Jody Gunderson were present at today’s committee meeting. A representative of the Postal Service will be at the Council meeting on April 05 to review the process for the possible closing of the Post Office. The Committee’s goal is to demonstrate to the Postal Service that the closing is unacceptable and not a good idea for Northfield or the Postal Service.

    March 25, 2011
  72. Ross Currier said:

    This issue was discussed at the March 16th NDDC Design and Planning Committee meeting. City Administrator Tim Madigan is a regular participant and the “Downtown Councilors”, Buckheit and Nakasian were also present. The initial outlines of a strategy were developed.

    Subsequently, Mayor Rossing and Administrator Madigan asked the NDDC to convene a group representing interested stakeholders to review the situation and develop a strategy related to the rumored closing of the downtown post office. NDDC Design and Planning Committee Chair Covey convened the first meeting this morning and the following is a summary of their discussions.

    Councilor Nakasian has experience in fighting the closing of a post office. She also spent years working on Capitol Hill. The NDDC asked her to advise us in our efforts.

    Councilor Nakasian went to Washington and met with a number of key people on this subject. She determined that no decision has yet been made to close the downtown Northfield post office. She advised community members to strongly but courteously resist the closure of the downtown post office.

    NDDC Director Currier was able to obtain contact information for individuals playing key roles regarding the downtown Northfield post office. NDDC Retention and Recruitment Committee Chair Reese contacted these individuals. He also determined that no decision had been made regarding the downtown post office.

    Based on the unsolicited statements of dozens of downtown business people, it is clear to the NDDC and the Task Force that the closure of the downtown post office will have a significant negative economic impact on downtown Northfield. The Task Force determined to do whatever possible and necessary to resist this closure.

    The Task Force wishes communicate the following three messages to both the local and national community:
    1) There has been No Decision on the Downtown Post Office.
    2) The Closure of the Downtown Post Office will Damage the Downtown Economy.
    3) Closing the Downtown P. O. and Relocating its Functions is a Bad Business Decision for the USPS.

    March 25, 2011
  73. Thank you for your work, NDDC! I am willing to help with your efforts in any way I can. Keeping core services downtown keeps us a real small town, with a real downtown…not just a quaint spot for tourists. We need to be both to survive. I am so hopeful the PO will stay!

    March 25, 2011
  74. Griff Wigley said:

    Ross, who wrote up those minutes? I assume it wasn’t you since you refer to yourself in the 3rd person, ie, “NDDC Director Currier was able to obtain…”

    March 26, 2011
  75. I wonder what would we would see if you asked each person who just then did business at the USPS if they were going some place else downtown or if they just came down to do the USPS business?

    So many times I know we just dropped off a package and went to just foods, which we would have done anyway, or went home or to a restaurant other than downtown to eat. I just don’t get that one place draws so much other business.

    March 26, 2011
  76. Ross Currier said:

    Griff –

    I always refer to Master Currier in the third person.

    Actually, the minutes were a first draft of a joint effort.

    There will be more information soon.

    March 26, 2011
  77. Jane Moline said:

    I am sorry I have bad-mouthed the NDDC–and I picked on Keith at the Historical Society on Thursday night–and we have to keep up this “good fight” because it is pretty darn depressing if you deal with the Post Office people–they are terrible Eeyores.

    Go NDDC (who seems to be only group really fighting for economic reality in Northfield–oh, I guess the Chamber is trying a little bit, too, but have been silent on this one.) Kudos to Councilor Nakasian,too, and buck up–the post office is known for threatening closings and then giving reprieve–another year could put a group in place who would buy the building and lease back the lobby and windows so it would be economically feasible to stay.

    March 26, 2011
  78. Arlen Malecha said:

    ” … and we have to keep up this “good fight” because it is pretty darn depressing if you deal with the Post Office people–they are terrible Eeyores.”

    Jane, I think you could be a bit more civil in your comments. There is no need to stoop so low as to say someone is a terrible eyesore. Comments like yours have no place in this, or any other, discussion.

    March 26, 2011
  79. ed kuhlman said:

    Arlen,
    That would be “Eeyore” not eyesore. Ask Eli or Noah.

    March 26, 2011
  80. Arlen Malecha said:

    So now see I totally misread Eeyores as eyesores. Either way, not a kind reference to the postal workers.

    March 26, 2011
  81. William Siemers said:

    I can see how the committee can demonstrate that closing the post office is not a good idea for Northfield. But I don’t understand how they can credibly demonstrate that it is not a good deal for the Postal Service since they have been running the place at a loss for many years and have a new facility a couple of miles away to take its place.

    It seems to me that a big part of the USPS business plan is aimed at making a trip to the post office unnecessary in order to use their services. As more people become aware of the convenience of the alternative methods of obtaining USPS services they will utilize them more and make increasingly fewer trips to the ‘building’. As demographics change, the very idea of a traditional post office may well become obsolete. USPS employee staffed, ‘walk in’, services will become available only in conjunction with large handling and sorting facilities. The USPS, for its own reasons, encourages this trend, and younger customers, responding to the convenience of online and private vendor service, are accelerating it. The writing is on the wall. But, of course, that doesn’t mean we have to read it. It’s easier to embrace the past than it is to confront the future.

    March 27, 2011
  82. Jane Moline said:

    Arlen: I stand by my comment–the decision makers at the post office –meaning management at a high level–are not remarkable for their business acumen but they constantly claim that everything is terrible and they will go out of business if they do not close this office or that office RIGHT AWAY. Their decision making is flawed, and we should be able to show them that. They will continue to a down-ward spiral in business if they withdraw services and provide lower service levels. They need to, instead, start providing more services (like a computer kiosk for internet access, and contracted delivery of FedEx, UPS and other courier packages.) They would cut more costs by suspending Saturday mail delivery.

    March 27, 2011
  83. Ross Currier said:

    Thanks to Councilors Nakasian and Buckheit for stepping forward to support the Save the (Historic Downtown) Post Office efforts.

    March 28, 2011
  84. Bobbi Bolton said:

    Arlen, Thanks for your input and support. I am comfortable that Jane did not mean any offense to us (the little postal workers on the front lines).

    March 28, 2011
  85. Bobbi Bolton said:

    Jane. Your comments are so on-the-mark especially regarding high-level management not having remarkable business acumen. It’s like they’re running around in circles. From what I have seen, most middle management have no/or minimal college education so no organizational management training and no degrees in business admin and it shows! By the way, the USPS does contract with UPS for delivering some packages as well as some other carriers.

    March 28, 2011
  86. At the Legislative session last Thursday Gov. Dayton complained that the heads of the various departments were only given 3 minutes to “make their case”, which he claimed was a Republican ploy to block the department head’s ability to explain why the proposed cuts to their departments were egregious and excessive.

    The truth is more mundane. The Department heads had had their chance to make their case many times, the final public presentation was more for show, and primarily provides a chance to override sound in depth analyses with a last ditch, emotionally based, appeal. This decision process reminds me of the attempts to close military bases. For the entire time I was active duty Air Force we complained that the AF (and other branches) could not save money by closing unneeded bases because every time we tried, the local unit of government would intervene politically to block such closures. The development of such deliberative bodies as the Base Closure and Realignment Commissions is emblematic of the problem. These commissions were formed to prevent individual community hardships (real or imagined) from overriding sound comprehensive base closure analyses. These commissions were charged with producing a single list that Congress had to approve on an all or none basis. The theory was that only by such draconian tactics could government make good budgetary decisions. Only by removing the political pressure that rewarded the pushy vocal communities at the expense of the taxpayers were good decisions permissible.

    The Post Office is in a similar position as it tries to determine how best to handle its inventory of offices. There are really two solutions that I see here that could solve this problem.

    The first would be to declare that Postal Service is infrastructure (like roads and bridges) and that as such, it should be funded by general funds and not be required to be a profit center. Of course, then every little burg and hamlet will want their own PO, and we could end up with a lot of Post Offices to Nowhere as local governments hopped on the gravy train of Federal government largesse.

    The second possibility might be for any municipality that thinks it cannot survive without its PO to offer to foot some or all of the bill for maintaining the building. Northfield, with its attractive (to my eye at least) Post Office, and its relatively deep pockets (compared to other cities of similar size) is a prime candidate. A local NDDC component, perhaps, or a non-profit formed as a “Friends of the Post Office“, could raise money to cover repairs, help with upgrades, and supplement the utilities. This seems to me to be a powerful statement to the Post Office that this site need not be (in the future) as expensive as it was (historically). Change the bottom line like this in a long-term meaningful way, and then you might not be so much at the mercy of decision makers over a thousand miles away.

    However, the efforts I see coalescing now all fall into the squeaky wheel gets the grease model of power politics that served taxpayers so poorly when military base closures were on the line.

    March 28, 2011
  87. Ross Currier said:

    Here’s who to contact, strongly but courteously, about the Historic Downtown Post Office:

    Patrick Donahoe, Post Master General and CEO
    United States Post Office
    475 L’Enfant Plaza, S.W.
    Washington, DC 20260

    Anthony Williams, Regional District Manager
    Northland District
    United States Postal Service
    100 1st Street
    Minneapolis, MN 55401-9990
    612-349-3505

    Please tell Mr. Donahoe and Mr. Williams that you oppose closing/consolidating/relocating the Historic Downtown Northfield Post Office. You could tell them that closing it would hurt the downtown because it: 1) brings people/customers to downtown, 2) provides essential services to downtown businesses, 3) is a key gathering place for the community.

    March 28, 2011
  88. William Siemers said:

    Bruce…
    Very good points. The wheel is indeed squeaking loudly and, as usual, the expectation is that someone else will pay for the grease. You rightly state that Northfield does have the resources to defray, or help defray, the USPS costs of keeping the post office open. Some folks here have indicated a willingness to take such an action, but that opinion is in the decided minority. Most commenters/petitioners here and elsewhere, including elected and community leaders, frankly take the position that others should pay. As was stated, ‘there are winners and losers’ and let’s make sure we are not losers. Of course the losers will be taxpayers, and less affluent communities. Struggling communities without the resources of Northfield. Communities without the wherewithal to assist the USPS in the cost of keeping their post office. Communities without other shipping options that will be seriously damaged by the closing (not the relocation) of their post office.

    March 31, 2011
  89. Kathie Galotti said:

    Bruce, I think you make a really important and compelling point here.

    March 31, 2011
  90. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Nfld News: Downtown leaders fear post office closing

    The closing, if approved, would be bad for downtown’s 250 commercial enterprises, many who regularly visit the post office to ship packages and pick up mail, said Bergeson. Without large staffs, many of the business in the historic district, he said, would regularly have to close their businesses for up to a half hour while they traveled to a relocated post office.

    April 2, 2011
  91. Griff Wigley said:

    Jerry Bilek has a different view:

    And while Bilek agrees that foot traffic downtown would be reduced if the post office closes, he’s not certain of the impact on area businesses. “There are a lot of people who park in front of the post office, take care of business and leave,” he said. If the post office closes, Bilek sees opportunities for local businesses like Graphic Mailbox. “Long term, “ he said, “I think it could be a benefit to downtown.”

    April 2, 2011
  92. Jerry Bilek said:

    I think we have two options. buy the post office and run it as a contract station or let it close. Asking the postal service to keep it open as it stands is a bad idea. we’re asking the taxpayers to subsidize a money losing venture to benefit our downtown. the building is underutilized as usps uses only a fraction of the space.

    as a privately owned building, we could expand our property tax base and have the opportunity to bring a new business to downtown. the building could be used for offices, retail, or a restaurant.

    I hope people will weigh my opinion objectively. if the postal service closes the downtown branch, the loss of foot traffic would have a negative impact on my business and bottom line. it is not in my best interest to close the downtown post office. Usps lost $8.5 billion in 2010. this is not sustainable.

    April 2, 2011
  93. William Siemers said:

    Jerry…It is easy for those of us with no real skin in the game to opine on this issue. It is another matter altogether for you, as a downtown business owner, to express your well reasoned (and generally unpopular) opinion. I commend you.

    April 2, 2011
  94. Ross Currier said:

    Jerry –

    The USPS is financially independent of the rest of the federal government, generating all its own revenues with no subsidies from American taxpayers.

    Closing the downtown post office will not solve the $8.5 billion problem, in fact, the closure (or consolidation) will probably significantly reduce the USPS’ gross income from the Northfield community.

    The USPS is talking about closing thousands of facilities, and will actually close hundreds this year. The downtown Northfield post office should not be among the hundreds closed.

    Closing the downtown Northfield post office will cost our community income, jobs, and tax base.

    Save Our Post Office.

    April 2, 2011
  95. Jane Moline said:

    Jerry: Your well reasoned opinion is just yours, and contrary to other business owners in Northfield who believe it will reduce foot traffic and affect their businesses.

    As Ross points out, closing the post office does not reduce their losses–what they save in location costs they will lose in revenues–it will mean a down turn in gross receipts and business lost to Graphic Meilbox, FedEx and UPS.

    The postal service does not have a good track record of making good business decisions. I think their business decision in Northfield is terrible for Northfield, Northfield businesses and for the US Post Office. Their business is service–they should consider other alternatives to cutting costs. They will save more my getting rid of Saturday mail delivery then these knee-jerk location closures.

    April 2, 2011
  96. Patrick Enders said:

    Jerry,
    Well said, and thanks for your honesty.

    I am just selfish enough that I will be happy if local efforts are successful in persuading the USPS to keep our Post Office open for a little while longer. However, in the long term I am certain that you are right.

    April 2, 2011
  97. William Siemers said:

    Jane…If you read Jerry’s post carefully you’ll see that he understands their will be a loss of foot traffic. Also, I fail to see how impugning the USPS’ business acumen will advance the cause of those opposed to the relocation. Do you really think that they have not considered the bottom line ramifications of the move? I find it surprising that you know more about their business than they do. Making such arguments will just antagonize them.

    April 2, 2011
  98. Jerry Bilek said:

    Ross,
    I realize the postal service operates without gov’t funding, but if they run out of money, which could happen if they don’t cut costs, they could require a taxpayer funded bailout.

    I don’t see how the closing will cost income, jobs or hurt the tax base. the downtown postal workers will move to the other facility and usps can sell the downtown building helping their bottom line and increase our tax base as it becomes a taxable property if it’s privately held.

    people won’t stop mailing packages and letters because it’s less convenient. I still think we turn this into a positive event and bring in a new business to an old but beautiful building.

    April 2, 2011
  99. Jerry Bilek said:

    Jane,
    William summed up my position pretty well. I do think a closing would hurt foot traffic and my business. I don’t want the post office to close, but I’m trying to be realistic. they have to trim their budget by closing branches and ending saturday delivery.

    look at what community bank did. they trimmed their footprint downtown after opening the branch on the south side. we survived. I’m an optimist, a glass half full kind of thinker. we can survive the post office closing.

    April 2, 2011
  100. Ross Currier said:

    Patrick –

    I know that Keynes is out of fashion right now, but “in the long term, we’ll all be dead”.

    I will agree that it’s hard to imagine an unchanged postal presence in twenty years, but let’s not give up in less than thirty day.

    April 3, 2011
  101. Ross Currier said:

    Jerry –

    Didn’t the taxpayers spend some $700 billion to bailout Citigroup, Bank of America, AIG, General Motors and Goldman Sachs, among other? Sure, the fabulous profits enjoyed by the companies in the last year or so has enable many of them to pay it back, but am I wrong to think spending tens of thousands of dollars for a few years to keep hundreds of businesses strong is an equally good use of taxpayer dollars?

    Fewer feet on the street will mean less income for many downtown businesses. Less income for businesses means (with a several year lag) lower property values and declining tax payments and, at some point, a loss of jobs.

    If you don’t think that “consolidation” doesn’t include the reduction of jobs, I encourage you to talk to the postal workers. They have a different view that you.

    April 3, 2011
  102. Jerry Bilek said:

    Ross,
    if we want to keep the PO open downtown, then we should pay for it. buy it or subsidize it. more bailouts are not the answer.

    if you read the comments on patch, most people want the PO to remain open because of convenience. that’s not a legitimate reason in my opinion. I agree the loss of traffic downtown could hurt business, including my business. I think long term, a different tenant in the PO building could be a welcome addition to downtown. one that pays taxes.

    I agree some jobs will but cut. over the last 3 years, most businesses have cut payroll, why should the PO be immune to this? if your revenue drops and you are losing money, you cut costs including payroll. I did. I started with my own paycheck.

    April 3, 2011
  103. kiffi summa said:

    I understand that the USPS $$ are not strictly federal $$… however most of us think of the Postal Service as being a government function.

    Therefore, as we see our federal government , and both political parties, continually state that small business is the backbone of the American economy and jobs, it would seem only prudent to keep the retail Post Office facility in the Downtown . It is an integral piece of the economic infrastructure for our core central business district.

    At a time when both progressive and conservative voices cry for common sense from the ‘government’, let them begin to show some actual , rather than perceived, economic common sense.

    A cost benefit analysis of this proposed closing, and the necessary $300-400K spent on creating a retail add-on to the southern postal annex would be hard pressed to show the economic reason . There has to be a more reasonable solution than just closing a lot of small facilities which are undoubtedly not the primary reason for the fiscal woes of the USPS.

    April 3, 2011
  104. Patrick Enders said:

    Ross,
    I have not said, “Don’t bother, let it close.” Good luck with your efforts to keep the Post Office open.

    However, the arguments that you and others have raised here have largely been “this will be bad for (downtown) Northfield.” That’s probably quite true, but where does it get you?

    If you are lucky, such arguments might hold sway with some legislator who has some influence over the Post office decision-making process – given our current legislative representatives, I’d guess that only our 2 US Senators might be particularly interested, and we’re hardly the only MN town threatened with a closing. But it might work.

    On the other hand, you would have greater difficulty making a persuasive case that keeping the PO open is in the USPS’s interest. Given the USPS’s dire financial situation, I find it likely that the USPS’s own interests will eventually prevail in its decision-making processes, no matter what the effect on downtown Northfield might be.

    Therefore, it would seem to me that while an emotional appeal for mercy from the USPS has a small chance of working in the short-term, it would also be wise for city leaders to simultaneously develop a Plan B for what to do next if your pleas fall on deaf ears.

    April 3, 2011
  105. Ross Currier said:

    Jerry and Patrick –

    I greatly appreciate your recognition that closing the downtown post office will have adverse impacts on the Northfield economy and community.

    I, like both of you, recognize that the USPS is facing severe financial challenges. I, too, appreciate the difficulty of the decisions they need to make.

    However, someone from the community with considerable expertise in this area estimated that it will be several hundreds of thousands of dollars to move the service operation to the southern location. Furthermore, dozens of local people have conducted their own “market analysis” and believe that there will be a significant loss of business for the USPS if the downtown location is closed. In their collective opinion, the consolidation will be a bad business decision for the postal service.

    Yes, these people are not the highly-paid professionals. However, they know their own habits and tendencies and have heard from their families and friends. At the very least, they ARE the market.

    I guess I don’t think it’s selfish to want the downtown post office to stay open. I think it’s what many people think is best for our community. Perhaps closing a post office would not have as adverse an impact on another community. That’s for other communities to decide.

    I believe that closing the downtown post office will hurt our community. Therefore, I join with others in saying “Save Our Post Office”.

    April 3, 2011
  106. Patrick Enders said:

    Ross,
    That’s all well and good. However, I really don’t understand your point of disagreement with Jerry, or myself.

    Is it simply that you think that the Post Office would suffer greater losses in closing the downtown Post Office than it would in keeping that office open?

    If that is your point, then perhaps you would be best served by presenting your market analyses supporting that assertion. Certainly, there’s no need to try to persuade Jerry or myself. However, if you hope to persuade the USPS, your argument would be most effective if it was supported with some simple calculations, and a statement of the assumptions upon which they are based – and not simply presented as an appeal based upon the anonymous authority of “someone from the community with considerable expertise in this area.”

    April 3, 2011
  107. victor summa said:

    I find the dispute in this dialogue for the most part, elitist. Hey … there are valid aesthetic reasons for Northfield’s citizens to protest the USPS’s plans to close the historic post office in Northfield’s central downtown. I doubt these rise to the fiscal reasoning being viewed by the USPS … and I understand that.

    But cutting the heart out of the town is not an acceptable option. Nor is replacing that heart with neon signs hawking pizza or Real Estate deals etc., even though some might view that as an economic imperative.

    Our post office in Bridge Square has been and IS an integral part of the downtown infrastructure of Northfield … as surely as there are streets around the Square… IT’S ARGUABLY the core of the core of this downtown, sharing the horizon with the Mill and the dam.

    In better times we heard political leaders and sociologists emphasizing the importance of environment for small businesses … for job creation, revenue to the economy as well as the social structure of our country.  Small businesses in the downtown,as fragile as many of them are … are major factors in the character of this community, making it what it is.

    Just as we lament the closing of a book store or a cafe .. a gift shop … whatever … these basic businesses come here for the same kind of reasoning that brings many of the residential transplants; to experience a unique life style … to have an opportunity to thrive in a small downtown such as ours; where incidentally, citizens have a constant need and make constant use of the post office … of walking to the post office, of experiencing the simple majesty of the historic facade in the traditional town square

    They (USPS) own it … but it is ours!

    Some things go beyond bottom line calculations. Perhaps a better way to look at the calculus is by viewing the value of some intangible factors.

    Sometimes, there are just common sense steps government, or in this case the USPS, should take to support the role of ‘Main Street’ … the needs of the community. Retaining small town post offices which are an important part of the economic and social infrastructure can certainly be one of those common sense measures.

    Does these reasoning resonate with the USPS decision making process? I hope so.

    Perhaps the fix is in fewer employees – diminished services – cutting Saturday deliveries. Increasing fees … or dare I say it … reinventing the business.

    If there wasn’t more to life than money, every downtown business in Northfield would probably think twice before signing a new lease.

    As an enthusiastic supporter of this Historic Downtown, I asked the postal service to NOT close Northfield’s downtown postal facility.

    April 3, 2011
  108. William Siemers said:

    At the council meeting USPS representatives will, hopefully, explain the cost of the relocation, and the cost of not relocating including projected loss of revenue, if any. They should say what market value they place on the building. They may even have an idea of its lease value. This information should be of interest to everyone involved in the discussion, and is crucial to those who might consider ‘Plan B (s)’.

    The ‘plan A’ arguments made here, on Patch, the NN, for keeping the downtown post office open are made by every town facing a closing or relocation. The fact that Northfield makes these arguments better, or more forcefully, than other towns may, or may not, persuade the USPS. They may simply say that they must make the right economic decision for the USPS, and ‘thanks for coming out’. Or they might say that if expected to consider the social and economic impacts of a closing, then they should look at all the facilities on ‘the list’ and make their decisions based on where the impacts would be the worst, and ‘we’ll get back to you on that’.

    Having a ‘plan B’ does indicate that plan A has its problems. Maybe it is too early to propose a plan B. On the other hand, having a plan B that indicates a willingness to participate in a solution to the local financial USPS problem, might just give Northfield a leg up on other towns facing a closing, and buy some time. The USPS then might just look at Northfield as part of of the solution rather than part of the problem.

    April 4, 2011
  109. Ross,

    Your argument is Northfield-centric. The USPS will (and should) decide whether to close the PO in downtown based on pure USPS monetary concerns. They should not be expected to factor in “impact on local businesses”.

    That is, unless you want to make an argument based on the PO as part of infrastructure (“free” like roads, not free like beer or free like speech) and therefore part of the overhead of having a society. But as soon as you go down that road you might find yourself wondering why we are paying for horse troughs in downtown (hey, horses are important to proper functioning). Or phone service to each house (landlines anyone, anyone?). The Infrastructure argument might fail in the face of WiFi and interconnectivity gone 20th century.

    As I said before, if you bring a big (locally grown) check paid for by all the businesses that NEED the PO either for their own use or as a drawing card for walk-by shoppers, well then you might change the equation for the USPS. Otherwise you are simply engaging in the sort of power politics that explain why parts of Minneapolis look like Pawnship hades while Eagan looks like some sort of Valhalla heaven. Political might used in this way is not what an egalitarian society should be based on. Or are we just about the power?

    April 4, 2011
  110. Jane Moline said:

    All you capitalists: The post office has both a right and responsibility for the service to Northfield. Pure monetary considerations cannot be the only factor in a decison to close and should not be. There are many people who rely on the post office to deliver their connection to the world—they may not have access to all the things those using this blog do, like internet and computers. They need to get their bills, pay their bills, and send messages to family, friends or even their customers. They pay for this service just like anyone else–but the Post Office will deny some of them access to service based on their decision to close the downtown post office–many will no longer be able to maintain access to a PO Box because of the location of the annex–a location that was not chosen so it would eventually house the service windows of the post office, but now suddenly in play regardless of the inconvenient siting.

    Not only that, the post office has no evidence that the relocation of the downtown post office to a distant location will save any money. They may well lose many of the PO customers in downtown and will lose alot of the profitable package business to Graphic Mailbox. Their home delivery costs will increase at a time when gas prices are going up up up. Their cost to pickup packages in downtown Northfield will be much higher for those that use the internet and package services of the Post Office.

    Yet many want to argue that the post office is making a practical business decision–there is no reason to believe this–just because they say it does not make it so.

    The U S Postmaster will be impressed with the number of people who plead for a reprieve.

    I also think a Plan B would be helpful, as William suggests. If a group of investors could buy the building and lease back to the Postal Service and if the service would give Northfield a year or so to put a group of investors together (wouldn’t it be great if we could put together a group of thousands who put in a little bit each to own a piece of historic Northfield!).

    April 4, 2011
  111. Jane Moline said:

    Phooey to you Bruce–the USPS does not make decisions on a purely monetary basis or they would stop delivering mail. Period.

    April 4, 2011
  112. kiffi summa said:

    To all that say the decision to close the PO is simply a fiscal one:
    1. Let the USPS provide a rationale why closing the Downtown facility and building a retail addition to the southern annex is a sound business position.
    2. If ‘government’ (yeah, I KNOW it’s not strictly gov’t) services are based only on Bottom Line, then let’s get rid of all gov’t depts , services, etc… and have only a Federal Office of Finance and Accounting…anyone think that’s a good idea?
    No President, No Congress, No EPA, no HUD, No Armed Services, etc, etc, etc… just a big fat Accountant in a tailcoat managing all those tax revenues that General Electric DOESN’T pay!

    Come on, who could base the nature of gov’t as NOT being concerned with the people processes that it governs?

    To my good friend Bruce: Why have a Bridgewater Planning Commission deciding what is good for the township if it is only about the rights of the business owner?

    Do y’all forget that WE are the government? NOT just the governed?

    April 4, 2011
  113. Gabriel Rholl said:

    Ross,

    I wonder if anyone (maybe you) could possibly post pictures of the interior of the post office, specifically the mural on the wall somewhere online? The visuals of the building are a point I’d like to stress in my letter, but I don’t have access to any pictures of the inside of the building and won’t be able to obtain them myself anytime soon.

    April 5, 2011
  114. Griff Wigley said:

    Great suggestion, Gabriel. I’ll try to take some photos today and post them here.

    PS: I moved your comment to this thread where the discussion is most relevant/active.

    April 5, 2011
  115. BrucwWMorlan said:

    Jane, That (the fact that the PO makes no economic sense) was the point of my second paragraph about infrastructure based arguments.

    April 5, 2011
  116. Griff Wigley said:

    Shodo, I found this re: the City of Bloomington, IN and the agreement to keep its downtown post office:


    Kruzan, USPS Reach Agreement on Downtown Postal Service

    Mayor Mark Kruzan announced today the City of Bloomington and United States Postal Service (USPS) have reached an agreement that should give the community cause to celebrate.

    Kruzan said the City is pleased with a USPS decision that would keep its retail and carrier operations together in the same facility and also would add an additional retail site downtown. Kruzan received news of the decision in a letter from the USPS.

    “The USPS listened to our community, and we’ve reached a very happy medium,” Kruzan said. “This issue started with the possibility of the downtown post office moving far southwest – even out of city limits – to locating on the near west side of downtown as well as maintaining a downtown retail presence.

    “While there are still questions to be answered, this is good news that shows recognition by the USPS that a downtown retail site with post office boxes must be part of its plan for Bloomington.”

    Specifically, Bradford Meador, Manager of Real Estate for the USPS, Great Lakes FSO, communicated via letter and conversation with City that the USPS plans to keep the retail and carrier operations together in one facility and will go forward with a site selection, presumably selecting from the six sites that were offered from private property owners. USPS officials will meet Tuesday to make the site selection, after which the City will be able to comment on the selection.

    In addition, the USPS is committing to adding a retail presence in Downtown Bloomington. In Meador’s letter, he stated the USPS did not know yet if this site would be a retail contract station or a detached, unmanned retail unit.

    However, in subsequent discussions with City staff, the USPS committed to seeking a contract station location with at least 500 post office boxes instead of an automated center for downtown.

    The post office would advertise the contract station opportunity through media channels as well as direct mail to potential businesses. Interested businesses would then have an opportunity to bid on the contract. Businesses that host a post office contract station earn income based upon the amount of postal service revenue earned.

    “A contract station could be a great entrepreneurial opportunity for an existing or future downtown retailer,” said Kruzan. “I expect that the USPS will receive strong interest regarding the contract station opportunity.”

    Kruzan said the City wants specific outcomes regarding the downtown site. It must:

    * be located as close to the core of downtown as possible,
    * provide as many retail services as possible as are currently provided by the 4th Street office, including post office boxes, and
    * be staffed by employees expected to meet the same quality of service as that of US Postal Service employees.

    He also wants assurances regarding the site’s longevity downtown.

    “If this is to be a contract station, the USPS must ensure us that this is a long-term contract,” Kruzan said.

    “This decision, in the end, should provide greater service to the community and the business sector as customers will have access to two retail centers where previously services were provided by one location,” he said.

    April 5, 2011
  117. Jane Moline said:

    Even if you are too chicken to speak up go to the city council meeting tonight at 7 and really impress the city council with the fact that there are people in town who CARE.

    I am amazed at how many people want to argue that it is either ineveitable, impossible to stop, or SMART for the post office to close the downtown Northfield location. This is about saving your community–this is just like Horton Hears a WHO—all you WHOs in Smallville better start making some racket.

    April 5, 2011
  118. Thanks, Jane. It really does get our attention to see the Council Chambers filled even if everyone doesn’t speak. We usually have only a very few dedicated Council watchers in the room, so when 10, 20, 30 or more people take the time and effort to show up, it does matter.

    April 5, 2011
  119. Jon Denison said:

    The Whos lived in Who-ville, Smallville is the adopted hometown of Superman. Northfield is more the home of The Legion of Superfluous Heroes (google to see what I mean).

    April 5, 2011
  120. BruceWMorlan said:

    Jane, to claim that people who apply REASON rather than EMOTION to this situation, people who worry about a big picture rather than just the local issue, people who care about everyone rather than just “us” is unfair label-mongering suited better for demagogues than for reasoning citizens. So fooey back atcha!

    And Kiffi, thanks for the vote of support! The fact is that if the town really needs the PO functioning as a PO then is it really fair to ask citizens in NY, CA and other points far away to subsidize our nice PO with their taxes? I think it might be, but no one will try to argue that point, so we are reduced to bean-counter negatives or community activist rants. And the lesson we teach our children is that the win goes to the noisy, not to the right, that yelling is better than reason and that volume equals truth.

    April 5, 2011
  121. Steph Henriksen said:

    The forum at Archer House this morning helped focus on the immediate threat to the downtown if postal services are not continued in that centrally located historic building. Let’s rally around Ross Currier and Council members and others who have put in so much work on this in recent days.

    The last thing we need is people jumping ahead to speculate on reuse of the building tonight. The USPS guy won’t come away with a clear impression of what we most want.

    The Shoto Spring report on Bloomington, Indiana shows a crowd can show up on short notice and succeed in stopping a closeure or relocation (in their case, moving services to department stores).

    April 5, 2011
  122. kiffi summa said:

    Bruce : it is RIGHT that this retail Post Office facility remain in the DT; that’s where retail portions of the USPS should be… and it is RIGHT on the basis of the ‘common good’ for a small town business core district to have a retail PO.

    now Bruce … was that “thanks for the vote of support” sarcastic? It sure seemed so, and you know the Sandbox Prince doesn’t allow sarcasm! Wouldn’t want you to get in trouble with your coffee buddy.

    and “community activist rants”… is that what a fight for the principles that represent a community are? back to the Bridgewater Planning Commission example, please…

    April 5, 2011
  123. Patrick Enders said:

    Well, the USPS guy delivered the bad news. He also delivered the USPS’s financial interest:

    “It’s estimated $750,000 will be saved over a 10-year period by making the move.” (quote of Patch, not of the guy himself)
    http://northfield.patch.com/articles/downtown-northfield-post-office-to-close

    It doesn’t sound like an insurmountable budget gap (weren’t we just thinking about spending $600,000 for a little parking lot in the name of downtown economic development?). If the personal appeal to our U.S. Senators to ‘Save our Post Office’ doesn’t do the trick, it might be possible to develop a local Plan B which would support continued downtown postal services, with some local revenue input.

    If a downtown Post Office really is as valuable to our economic wellbeing as Ross and others have asserted, then city and development leaders should start working on some creative proposals that might shift the USPS’s financial perspective on this matter.

    April 6, 2011
  124. William Siemers said:

    Observations at the council meeting:
    USPS had people in attendance representing real estate, retail, regional and local management.

    The council and the audience displayed civility, even friendliness to the USPS representatives. According to those representatives:

    Business is bad at the USPS nationally and business is down at the local P.O. by about 10% year over year. On the other hand, internet based services are growing by leaps and bounds. The USPS does not need two 9000 square foot facilities in Northfield. It is their opinion that one facility is modern and easily expanded to include boxes and retail (for a cost of about 300k)and the other facility is unsuitable, and perhaps unsafe, for anything other than retail and boxes. They project saving (a remarkably low) 75k per year by relocating the services now available at the downtown facility. They seemed unconcerned regarding possible revenue losses resulting from the relocation. They expect to offset, or cover, the cost of remodeling the annex for boxes and retail by selling the downtown building, although they have no idea, or are unwilling to convey, what the downtown building will fetch. They might consider boxes along with some automated services at a downtown storefront branch. Placing boxes at a contracted facility is unlikely because of security issues. They were unenthusiastic about operating an automated facility with the existing boxes at the downtown P.O. They expect no jobs to be lost due to the relocation.

    Main opposition included those want to preserve the vitality of downtown by keeping ‘the feet on the street’, those who would be inconvenienced by the move, and those who want to preserve the post office as a post office come what may. The USPS reps seemed to have heard these arguments before, although perhaps not as eloquently stated.

    Additional arguments were made concerning ‘walkability’ and how citizens will not use the new facility because they can’t walk to it. If they did not know otherwise the USPS might have left the meeting thinking everyone walks everywhere in town, rain or shine, winter or summer.

    Surprisingly, there was some support conveyed for plan B thinking beginning with the Mayor’s initial comments. Others voiced comments supporting alternative uses for the building. A former postmaster urged citizens to consider an automated storefront downtown. He also said that contacting USPS would be unproductive and urged political pressure to change pension/healthcare funding mandates that force USPS into the red. He thought that if such changes had been in place, ‘we wouldn’t be here tonight’. I’m not so sure, since the funding changes for pensions would not change the redundant nature of the downtown facility.

    April 6, 2011
  125. Patrick Enders said:

    William,
    Thanks for your summary/insights. I was stuck at work, and couldn’t get the audio to work on the live stream of the meeting.

    April 6, 2011
  126. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve added a recent photo of the exterior and 3 other photos of the interior to the blog post above. I’ve also removed the “Churches to compete for space?” from the blog post title.

    April 6, 2011
  127. kiffi summa said:

    The local economic arguments have been made; the USPS economics were not impressive on the strictly local issue… I actually believe the annex building would be a fairly easy sell, if they chose to stay in the “inconvenient” multi-level building.
    At any rate ( no pun intended) the savings projected are not great as set against the cost of building the addition, and who knows … in their ten year projected time frame, the PO may cease to exist in the form we now recognize.

    Two other issues: 1. the DT P.O. is a WPA building, 1936, I believe. the architecture of the New Deal/WPA era was most often extraordinary. Quality architects were out of work and did exemplary work on these gov’t contracts. Accoutrements such as metalwork and bas-relief sculpture were exquisite examples of those arts, and the Federal Gov’t should be proud of the body of work that was created, by them, at such a disastrous time. It is a legacy that deserves to be cherished.

    2. This PO is a designated building on the National Register of the National Trust of Historic Places…
    Did you get the word TRUST?
    It would be nice if we could TRUST the government that created this legacy of buildings to protect them; that is what they seek to do in other cases, above more personal financial interests; even against what may be more privately held ownership interests. Now the shoe is on the other proverbial foot, and the principal goes flying down the road… literally.

    Whatever happens, this building must stay in the care of the City of Northfield; I hope our Council will take the challenge with the utmost seriousness and dedication to task.

    April 6, 2011
  128. Bobbi Bolton said:

    Both your points very well-stated and I am in totally agreement. The USPS apparently cares very little about history and preservation at this point. They are not concerned with high ideals or small town sentimentality. Most of the officials are from very large cities (our last night’s presenter was from Denver) and have little empathy for beautiful, small towns. One of the problems over the years was the lack of a postmaster or supervisor “of” the community. Most postmasters came from other places, did not live in Northfield, and had no bond with the town. And it showed in their lack of personal customer service.

    April 6, 2011
  129. David Ludescher said:

    William,

    Do you get any sense from the Post Office if non-economic factors play into the decision?

    April 7, 2011
  130. William Siemers said:

    David…I really don’t know…Maybe others there can chime in. They were sympathetic listeners…but it was obvious that they had been through it before, and learned that sympathetic listening is probably the best way to get through those kinds of meetings. I got the impression that in a way they want to get out of the building as much as they want to consolidate…so some non-economic factors may be at work for them, but they’re not necessarily the kind that will help Northfield save the P.O. as a P.O.

    April 7, 2011
  131. The mandate must be this one … “The USPS, postal officials say, is hemmed in by Congressional regulations that have kept the Postal Service from showing a profit. A 2006 federal law, Miller, the former postmaster, said, requires the USPS to prepay its pension fund.” (as reported in Northfield News). This is the sort of pension reform that is being used to keep the entire concept of pensions alive. The idea is that you (as a business, as a union or as a government) cannot simply puff smoke and position mirrors and say that we will pay for pensions “when we get there”. Requiring that we fund them NOW for future outlays means that we don’t end up with a looming tens of Trillions in obligations to be paid out of a paltry few trillions in income. This local crisis is simply one of many we confront as a nation as we try to save up to pay off our unfunded future obligations.

    April 7, 2011
  132. Patrick Enders said:

    Bruce,
    It seems to me to be a shame that the USPS representative decided to blame our Post Office closing on the (unrealistic?) expectation that USPS actually pay for the pensions it is promising. I’d think that the Post Office should take pride in its fiscal honesty, and in not creating further unfunded obligations. Unfortunately, this USPS representative seems to have drawn the opposite conclusion.

    Other corporations and public institutions should be similarly honest in their financial planning, and in preparing to meet their contractual commitments.

    April 7, 2011
  133. David Ludescher said:

    Patrick,

    I’m not clear on your point.

    From what I have heard so far, the Post Office doesn’t need to provide any explanation for closing the office. All it needs to do is provide an opportunity to be heard (which it can ignore).

    Funded pension benefits probably are a real systemic issue, not only for the Post Office, but also for government entities, and some private sector companies. If the Post Office could reduce its expenses, it could probably keep the downtown office open longer.

    I haven’t yet found a cogent reason why the Post Office should care about the closing’s impact upon Northfield. It seems to me that we (Northfield) needs to present some kind of economic argument for the Post Office that would justify the $75,000.00 a year that the downtown office is costing.

    Maybe we could take the Downtown Streetscape funds and use those funds to keep it open a while longer. There was talk about buying a tax paying house for $750,000 and tearing it down (for future library expansion). Maybe we could take that money and give it to the post office to stay open. (I can’t comment on the legality of this action. However, I would much prefer a downtown post office to the parking lot, bike paths and trees that we have been spending the money on.)

    April 7, 2011
  134. Patrick Enders said:

    David,
    Ignore it. My point was merely a digression regarding the excuse provided by the USPS representative, and merely followed up on Bruce’s digression. It’s not particularly relevant to the closing – just as it didn’t seem particularly relevant when the USPS guy brought it up.

    I agree with everything you just stated, as per my previous comments, above.

    April 7, 2011
  135. William Siemers said:

    $75,000 a year was the real estate guy’s estimate. Just what is saved/lost in that calculation is unknown. It obviously does not include any significant labor cost. They stated that ‘no jobs would be lost’ due to the relocation. But workers could be reassigned to other than window functions either temporarily or permanently at the new location. They are undoubtedly expecting greater labor efficiency by operating one location. I wouldn’t be surprised if that 75k figure becomes a moving target. Or that they would not consider plan B compensation from the city or a civic group simply because they want the money from the sale of the building.

    I have no objection as a citizen to the city pursuing a plan B that offsets the USPS losses in operating the downtown facility. But we should realize that spending that money will not reverse the trend the USPS faces and, in many ways, is hastening: fewer walk-in customers at post offices. The demographics can’t be reversed, and the USPS will continue to push internet options that are less expensive to provide yet dovetail nicely with their key business advantage: carrier routes. We can try to pay the USPS to keep it open, but unless non-p.o. activities are added at the building, foot traffic will continue to decrease.

    April 8, 2011
  136. Patrick Enders said:

    A 9,000 square foot building in the heart of downtown should indeed be used for more than a service window and PO boxes.

    April 8, 2011
  137. David Ludescher said:

    William,

    I understand. However, it would be nice to know what Northfield would have to do to keep the post office open. If the Post Office wants $75,000.00 per year to keep the downtown office open, at least Northfield would know what its costs would be.

    I understand the cultural and historical arguments. I just don’t know why the Post Office would care about our problems.

    April 8, 2011
  138. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve had 5 people in the past week say to me in so many words, “If the Post Office building ends up in the hands of the City of Northfield, might it be a good location for the municipal liquor store?”

    I kind of like that idea. And maybe several government-related services could be there:

    * some retail post office services
    * liquor store
    * library lending annex

    All three legs of Ross Currier’s downtown ‘stool’ of anchor institutions having a presence in one location!

    April 10, 2011
  139. Steph Henriksen said:

    Let’s get back to the advice of the former postmaster–appealing to Congress to change the 2006 law on prefunding that forced USPS into the red. Maybe there’s compromise there somewhere. Get Kline’s staff researching this, and Klobuchar and Franken, or they will not have enough reason to come meet with us! I know prefunding sounds like a good thing, but if it is not required of other businesses, why this one? Especially if it breaks USPS before its time and takes our post office with it.

    The countdown started April 5 (60 day comment) so let’s get NDDC on it. Many thanks to Carole Christensen of Antiques of Northfield who has a sign painted in white letters on the glass:

    SAVE THE POST OFFICE
    48 days left

    April 17, 2011
  140. Patrick Enders said:

    Stephanie,

    Are you sure that you want to relieve the USPS of its duty to set aside money to ensure that it will actually honor its pension pledges – just on the faint possibility that it might somehow keep our Post Office open?

    First, there’s little hope of accomplishing such a significant federal policy change in the next 48 days – so it sounds quite unlikely that it would change our Post Office’s fate, regardless.

    Second, you’re talking about a policy change which may negatively impact tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of USPS employees and retirees. Are you sure that we should blindly do the USPS’s bidding on this issue – without carefully looking at what it truly means first? I’d suggest maintaining a healthy bit of skepticism regarding the USPS rep’s suggestion.

    Far better to focus on A) lobbying our two Senators, and B) developing a Plan B.

    April 18, 2011
  141. Patrick Enders said:

    Speaking of, is there any public effort underway on either of those fronts?

    April 18, 2011
  142. Steph Henriksen said:

    Patrick,

    Let’s not get carried away without reading the material. I posted this to Northfield PATCH and sent it to all Council members in March in hopes people would READ IT. I picked out just the short summary:

    Get on USPS OIG (office of inspector general) website and find George Mason Model:
    Options for Adapting to Volume Declines
    We believe the model offers an objective framework to organize the debate about how to respond to the current crisis. The available solutions fall into three broad options:
    1. Let the market dictate. Increase prices to the levels the market would bear to make the Postal Service break even as suggested by the GMU study. This option requires price increases above the levels allowed by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act.
    2. Introduce substantial changes to the Postal Service’s cost and revenue structure. Allow the Postal Service to implement its 10-year action plan announced in March 2010, giving the Postal Service the flexibility to cut delivery days, pursue new products, optimize its network, and undertake other initiatives.4
    3. Aggressively correct CSRS and FERS overpayments. Reform the Postal Service’s prefunding of its health and pension obligations by returning the amounts the Postal Service has overpaid and by allowing it to adopt the same funding targets commonly used in the private sector — 80 percent for pensions and 30 percent for retiree health care. This option can maintain the PAEA price cap.5
    GMU’s analysis provides hope that the Postal Service can survive the anticipated volume declines as long it is allowed to act on the options available for financial sustainability.

    April 21, 2011
  143. Patrick Enders said:

    Stephanie,
    The USPS could also fix all its financial problems if we allowed it to print all the dollars it could ever want to meet its expenses. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

    It would be far better to look at the full implications of the proposal before endorsing the USPS’s agenda.

    And again, advocating for the USPS’s requested policy changes will not accomplish anything soon enough to Save Our Post Office.

    A local Plan B might.

    April 21, 2011
  144. Griff Wigley said:

    Punster John George will like this headline in the Sat. Star Tribune: Northfield gives closing of post office a stamp of disapproval

    But in Northfield, residents have fought the consolidation plan. They have filed protests with the state’s congressional delegation, launched a petition drive (both written and, ironically, electronically as well) and formed a Save Our Post Office Task Force.

    The Northfield Post Office, a charming jewel built at the height of the Depression by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1936, is a cornerstone to the city’s downtown and anchors the Bridge Square business district.

    “It’s one of the key buildings in our historic district,” said Ross Currier, executive director of the Northfield Downtown Development Corp.

    April 22, 2011
  145. john george said:

    Griff- Yep. Half the success of any good pun (oxymoron?) is in the delivery.

    April 22, 2011
  146. Steph Henriksen said:

    Patrick,

    As I recall, the George Mason Model was an independent study. Did you check it out or just go by the summary I provided?

    May 5, 2011
  147. Steph Henriksen said:

    So many naysayers, so many people unable to keep their eye on the prize:

    SAVE OUR POST OFFICE

    BTW, Mayor Rossing has declined to receive copies of the petition at her store, so I suggest delivering them to Ross Currier at his office or to any City Council member who may see they get into the right hands by deadline.

    Also, Scott Richardson, new president of NorThfield Historical Society, has declined to allow the petition at the Bank Museum. He told me Sunday that board members were united in their position that since the Post Office is not under threat of demolition that the petition is not something they can support. He said the next board meeting was in May (too late).

    May 5, 2011
  148. Patrick Enders said:

    Stephanie,
    You didn’t link to anything for me to read.

    But regardless of its merits (or lack thereof), the “George Mason Model” is a proposal for improving the financial situation of the USPS over the long term. It is not a quick fix, and it’s quite simply not going to be enacted any way, shape, or form in the next 30 days.

    Why do you think it will have any impact whatsoever on the fate of our Northfield Post Office?

    May 5, 2011
  149. Steph Henriksen said:

    Patrick,

    Try this link
    http://www.postalreporternews.net/tag/george-mason-university/

    I am still waiting to see the SAVE OUR POST OfFICE sandwich board on Bridge Square with NDDC website for action people can take. A good idea from Antiques of Northfield, but I don’t see it.

    May 6, 2011
  150. Patrick Enders said:

    Stephanie,
    Thank you for the link. If I get a chance, I’ll take a look at it, as I do have a more-than-passing interest in the ongoing viability of the US Postal Service.

    I did spend about 5 minutes yesterday googling/reading on “usps reform congress,” and I found that both Barack Obama and – more importantly – the Postal workers’ union have endorsed reducing USPS pension outlays. I didn’t come to any personal understanding of the issue, but I’ll assume that if the USPS union supports reduced payments, then it probably won’t punish USPS employees or retirees excessively. (Or if it does, then they’ve apparently given their assent to the outcome.)

    But Stephanie, you have not answered my question:

    How does USPS reform, or the George Mason Model, have any relevance to the soon-to-be-determined fate of our Northfield Post Office?

    May 6, 2011
  151. Steph Henriksen said:

    Patrick,

    The idea is that if we draw our Congress people’s attention to the needed USPS reforms and meet with them on it , the postal service might benefit from the negotiations and back off us in Northfield, at least temporarily. Kline’s office said there is a bill out there to return to pre-2006 (prefunding).

    However, the powers-that-be in Northfield are slow in picking up on this strategy. Too bad. Mary Lewis Grow understood it–why not others?

    May 7, 2011
  152. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News: Save the P.O. group asks for recision (sic) on closure

    But Suzie Nakasian, who is working with the group, spearheaded by the Northfield Downtown Development Corp., believes there’s a viable alternative that would satisfy the USPS’s need to save money and Northfield’s desire to have a centrally located post office.

    A meeting in early April with area manager Will Jones gave the group hope, she said, but with the June 5 deadline for a final decision by the Postal Service fast approaching, no deal has yet been struck. That’s led the group to ask the USPS to reverse its preliminary decision to close and sell off the 1936 building.

    “We’re saying don’t include us … in the meantime, we’re working with your representatives,” she said. The City Council Tuesday is set to approve a letter supporting the rescission.

    May 12, 2011
  153. Steph Henriksen said:

    Griff,
    I’m encouraged by the idea of request for recision. Wanted to read the whole report, but your link says “page not found.”

    May 13, 2011
  154. Griff Wigley said:

    Steph, the Nfld News misspelled the word ‘rescission’ in their original story headline. Their new software now uses ‘pretty permalinks’ which use the wording of the headline in the URL so when they fixed the spelling error, they removed the original story and created a new one, so my link then broke. AARRGGHH.

    Here’s the new one: Save the P.O. group asks for rescission on closure

    May 13, 2011
  155. William Siemers said:

    It seems the ‘needed reforms’ may just be a way for the USPS to transfer their pension obligations to the government/taxpayer. Pension obligations they assumed and accepted when they got billions of dollars of government/taxpayer assets when ‘reorganized’ in 1970. The USPS reported a 2.2 billion dollar loss for the first quarter of this year…25% higher than the same quarter last year. The losses will continue to grow unless they remake their operating strategy and revisit their payroll costs.

    Fewer people are using most post office buildings every year, including the downtown Northfield P.O. building. The USPS knows it and anyone living in the 21st century knows it. As business diminishes every year will the USPS adequately maintain the building they were forced to keep open? Is an increasingly under utilized building really a community asset?
    Maybe the best way to save the building is to strike a deal with the USPS on selling it to the city and letting them leave downtown and efficiently operate whereever they want.

    May 14, 2011
  156. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld Patch: Fight to Save Downtown Post Office Far From Over

    Last week, Brooke Dorobiala from Congressman John Kline’s office was in town to meet with the task force. Two days later, Currier, Nakasian and City Administrator Tim Madigan joined Dorobiala on a conference call with a member of Kline’s Washington office to further discuss the proposed post office consolidation.

    All said, Currier said he’s been more than pleased with how Kline’s staffers have helped—and advocated—for the post office to stay downtown.

    “It was obvious they had done a lot of background work,” he said, adding that the Congressman’s staff has had conversations with higher members of the USPS that everyday citizens may not have access to.

    May 20, 2011
  157. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Nfld News: Letters give few clues to fate of Northfield’s post office

    Suzie Nakasian’s still optimistic that Northfield’s downtown post office can be saved, despite a nebulous response from the U.S. Postal Service and the looming deadline for a decision on closing the 75-year old structure which anchors the city square.

    Identical letters sent May 31 to the City Council and Keith Covey, who is working as part of the Save the Northfield Post Office group, give few clues as to whether the USPS will shutter the historic building.

    June 4, 2011
  158. Patrick Enders said:

    There is a brief update re: the Post Office at the bottom of a Patch article titled “Northfield EDA Takeover Vote Fails”:

    Councilors also passed a resolution stating its agreement with principles of the Save Our Post Office task force, presented by resident and member Keith Covey.

    Among the resolutions[…] are[…] an openness to support a deal involving acquisition.

    The council will also request the USPS to not move ahead until receiving an alternative from the city before moving ahead with its original plan to close the downtown post office and shift all mail carrying to an annex in the town’s southwest.

    http://northfield.patch.com/articles/northfield-eda-takeover-vote-fails

    June 23, 2011
  159. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Patrick. Also, Jane McWilliams, LWV Observer, had this about the Post Office in her June 21st, 2011 Council Meeting report:

    Downtown Post Office Actions: Save Our Post Office Chair Keith Covey circulated a memo asking for agreement by motion to a list of questions which he said came from the points discussed at last week’s work session. In separate motions, the council agreed to continue to support efforts to retain the downtown postal service, but to not create citywide centralized delivery. They asked that the postal service not pursue other options until it receives a proposal from the city. The council will seek answers to certain legal issues, and consider participating in a yet undefined acquisition of the building. They asked the postal service whether other cities have directly negotiated purchase of a post office building, and whether Northfield will be afforded that opportunity.

    June 24, 2011
  160. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News: City Council votes to buy downtown post office if need arises

    If the U.S. Postal Service decides to shutter the city’s downtown branch as it has suggested, the City Council plans to try and buy the historic building.

    The council, in a unanimous vote, agreed that retail site is so important to the city — economically, historically and symbolically — that it wants to participate in charting the building’s future.

    On Tuesday, Northfield Save Our Post Office task force chair Keith Covey suggested that if the postal service decides to dispose if the building that the council offer the USPS $1 for the parcel.

    July 6, 2011
  161. David Ludescher said:

    If the USPS sells it for $1.00, I am guessing that there will be quite a few willing buyers.

    July 7, 2011
  162. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Strib: Northfield bids to keep post office downtown

    District Manager Anthony Williams said he extended the city’s 60-day response period past the June 5 deadline to give city officials time to make their proposal. Would he sell to the city?

    “It depends on what the circumstances are,” said Williams, whose district covers most of Minnesota and western Wisconsin. He said 29 of the district’s 850 post offices are to be closed this year, and Northfield, Plymouth, Minnetonka, Cottage Grove and five others will consolidate services with other stations.

    Williams said last week that the government still plans to sell the Northfield station “unless the city provided something else that would create an alternative that would be best.” He said he expects to respond soon to the city’s offer.

    July 27, 2011
  163. Why would the city buy it and then sell it to a developer (waiting in the wings?). Does the City intend to sell it at a higher price, or at a loss? Why be a middleman… middlecity? Shouldn’t the developer be the one buying it?

    July 28, 2011
  164. kiffi summa said:

    Good question, Carol… you may know that the City bought their building from the Key (NF Union of Youth) only to put out a RFP and then will now be selling it to one of the applicants/developers. They even had two interested parties waiting in the wings; the restaurants on either side of the property; those then were the two applicants.

    ‘They’ must enjoy being the middleman! Unfortunately that’s a good way for the seller, the Key, to receive less for their building than if they would have had the two already interested parties bidding against each other.

    Why, indeed?

    July 28, 2011
  165. kiffi summa said:

    I should have made something more clear in my comment above: I am totally in favor of the City remaining in control of the downtown Post Office Building. I consider the building to be essential to the character of Bridge Square.

    If the City would get control of the PO building and then sell it to a ‘developer’, I would be very disgruntled. If the USPS refuses to see the importance of these small town central POs, then it’s up to the City to retain it for some civic use.

    So if the City’s dollar sale and free lease-back offer doesn’t ‘work’, then some other way has to be found to keep the building in the City’s control.

    A lot of the process confusion here arises from the lack of clear information from the USPS.

    So there’s sales where the city shouldn’t become the middleman and other times when there is a strong need to be in control of the property.

    July 30, 2011
  166. Patrick Enders said:

    The report in today’s Nfld News outlines Mayor Rossing’s proposal for the city’s use of the property, which does not seem to include selling it to a developer:

    A letter from Mayor Mary Rossing this week asks postal officials to approve a deal to sell the historic 1936 post office to the city for $1. In exchange, the city would lease at least 2,000 square feet of the building’s first floor to the post office rent free for three years.

    “This proposal will eliminate the $75,000 annual cost of operating the downtown facility,” said Rossing in her letter, “while maintaining the $800,000 annual revenue stream it generates.”
    Rossing also argues that the post office is not only a valuable anchor for the downtown, but a principal draw for 260 nearby businesses.

    “Now,” said Covey, “we’re just waiting to hear back.”

    http://northfieldnews.com/content/purchase-offer-post-office-it's-mail

    July 30, 2011
  167. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    KYMN said on local news today Thursday that there was another letter from Williams about closing the downtown PO. There was to be a meeting of the Save Our Post Office committee today at noon. I was unable to reach members of NDDC for details, so I went home. Anyone know more?

    August 11, 2011
  168. Griff Wigley said:

    So what’s Plan B for the downtown Post Office building, once the Annex gets expanded?

    And what about the USPS plan to open more Village Post Offices?

    For communities currently without a postal retail office and for communities affected by these retail optimization efforts, the Postal Service introduced the Village Post Office as a potential replacement option. Village Post Offices would be operated by local businesses, such as pharmacies, grocery stores and other appropriate retailers, and would offer popular postal products and services such as stamps and flat-rate packaging.

    August 13, 2011
  169. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Griff,

    Williams says. “It is not in out best interest to consider an offer of $1.00 for a building that has a market value that far exceeds that amount.” Short and insulting, I thought.

    Post Office letter Williams 892011.pdf 631.19 KB

    Our former postmaster told us April 5 that the building was previously valued at half a million, but in this economy one might expect to pay half that. We could not afford $200-250,000 for this historic treasure? KYMN said Thursday that the Council had committed $3,000 (?) previously for attorney fees on this matter. Did Atty Chris Hood come up with the plan that was so soundly refused?

    August 13, 2011
  170. Patrick Enders said:

    Was $1 the only offer the city was willing to make?

    I hope we can do better than that when it comes to creating a Plan B.

    August 13, 2011
  171. Phil Poyner said:

    I say we double our offer!! After all, isn’t our town worth it??? 😉

    August 13, 2011
  172. Patrick Enders said:

    Phil, I’d even consider paying as much as $3.47 to buy the old USPS building on the square.

    August 13, 2011
  173. Phil Poyner said:

    Woah, woah, woah!! Now hold on there, Cowboy!! That there’s just crazy talk.

    August 13, 2011
  174. kiffi summa said:

    The USPS ‘math’ makes no senses… For what the city offered them in the Mayor’s letter, they could stay in their current building, rent free, for three years (savings of 225K) and also saving the estimated 300-400K of building a retail addition to the South Hwy 3 facility.
    I would imagine the city would also negotiated a five year deal with them.

    In 3-5 years, who knows where the USPS will be; they don’t appear to be very adept at money management…

    August 14, 2011
  175. kiffi summa said:

    So, what’s going on now? Is the committee writing another letter to the USPS pointing out that the rent free offer would allow them to NOT spend the $300-400K on a retail addition to the annex, while they (USPS) tries to sort out its operational problems, together with the finances of its pension plan?

    Is there any info to the concerned public ? will the Mayor/Committee contain to negotiate?

    August 27, 2011