Post office might remain in Timberlyne

Feb. 12, 2013 @ 03:33 PM

There’s no doubt that the U.S. Postal Service is in a fight for its life.
Last week, postal officials announced historic plans to do away with Saturday delivery of mail.
The postal service is also engaging in other significant cost cutting measures to reduce operating costs as it continues to respond to the economic downturn and customers’ increasing reliance on electronic communications.
In Chapel Hill, the postal service’s money-saving efforts will likely translate into a streamlining of the Timberlyne Post Office on Weaver Dairy Road.
Carriers working out of the Timberlyne office are being relocated to Carrboro’s main post office on Main Street.
Meanwhile, the postal service is in negotiations with the owner of the Timberlyne location to reconfigure the space, reducing it from more than 11,000 square feet to a more manageable 2,500 to 3,000 square feet.
Maria J. Larsen-Williams, a real estate specialist for the postal service, attended a Town Council meeting Monday to clarify a letter she had previously sent to council that led council members and others to assume that the post office would be closed permanently and its retail operation relocated to an undetermined property nearby.
“Let me explain,” Larsen-Williams said. “It’s just the carriers that are relocating. It’s [the Timberlyne office] customers won’t see a change. The mail will still come every day. The only difference you might see is it won’t be as large.”
Larsen-Williams said that an assumption was made that the post office would move from Timberlyne because landlords aren’t ordinarily willing to negotiate the kind of reconfiguration being proposed by the postal service.
“There was an assumption made that the landlord was not willing because you go from so many square feet down to 3,000,” Larsen-Williams said. “As a result of some follow up conversations I had made, the landlord’s representative and I are talking, so it’s very possible we will be able to stay.”    
If for some reason the negotiations fall through, Larsen-Williams said the postal service would relocate a streamlined post office in space near its current site.
“To relocate does not mean to close,” Larsen-Williams said. “If we relocate, we would stay in as close proximity as we can. Obviously, available space dictates that.”
Sufficiently satisfied that Chapel Hill won’t lose one of its three post offices, the council turned to other burning business it has with the postal service, ensuring all Chapel Hill residents have Chapel Hill addresses.
Some residents, like Mayor Pro tem Ed Harrison, for example, have Durham addresses but live in Chapel Hill.
Harrison said carriers have told him that residents’ mailing addresses are based on where the postal service parks the truck that delivers the mail.
He said a change from that philosophy – mail will be delivered from Carrboro to some ZIP codes instead of Durham, for example – highlights the postal service’s financial struggles.
“It tells me something of the strains that you’re operating under now that you’ve made this now complete disconnect with geography,” Harrison said.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said that because addresses are no longer tied to where a postal truck is park that all Chapel Hill residents should now be given Chapel Hill addresses.
“I actually ran on this a couple of years ago because this is actually important, because people live near this community and get the benefit of our brand and we get nothing,” Kleinschmidt said. “My point is if you’re all jumbled up with the geography now, how about giving us back our name?” 
Larsen-Williams said she didn’t know how to answer that question.
“I handle the bricks and mortar portion,” she said. “I don’t handle the operational side … but what I will do mayor, on behalf of the community is share your statement with the management.”
In other business Monday, the council authorized a two-year service agreement to extend the town’s current fire services district into certain Orange County neighborhoods located on the south side of Chapel Hill, north of Mount Carmel Church Road.   
The move was made to lower insurance rates for residents of the neighborhoods.
Insurance companies over the years had given them credit for being protected by Chapel Hill even though they were actually protected by the North Chatham VFD. When the discrepancy was identified, their rates doubled and in some cases tripled.