Governor Charles W. Turnbull wants the U.S. Postal Service to put the long-delayed new St. John post office in the controversial parking structure proposed for a government site across from the Cruz Bay bulkhead. Gov. Turnbulls capital projects assistant Keith Richards made the surprise offer to USPS officials at a public hearing Thursday, November 17, at the Westin Resort and Villas.
Richards offered USPS officials the opportunity to relocate the post office to the first floor of the hotly-debated vendors plaza and parking garage planned for the current site of Natures Nook, W.W. Fast Foods and several other small businesses.
The decision has been made to make an offer to the Postal Service to use the first floor of the new facility, said Richards.
Third Floor Added
The design of the structure would now change to three floors, two for parking and vending and one for the post office, according to Richards.
We had to go to the Attorney General and obtain a legal opinion allowing us to make an official offer and we have that now, but it hasnt been signed, Richards said.
The official offer in writing would be ready before Thanks-giving, Richards added.
Residents, USPS Surprised
The governments offer surprised residents, many who are opposed to the construction of the vendors plaza and parking facility, and USPS officials who have previously tried to work with the local government.
Id love to see the post office in Cruz Bay, but theres a lot of concern about this proposed bunker that will provide only 85 spaces, said one resident.
We dont want to get into a debate about where a parking facility should be, we all have ideas about that, said the governors capital projects assistant. The government must provide parking and we will provide parking at that site.
Despite a petition in opposition to the vendors plaza and parking facility which has already garnered more than 700 signatures, the parking facility has been in the works for 20 years, $3.1 million of funding is in place and Governor Turnbull is committed to the design-build project, Richards continued.
There is no real issue, the governor is already committed to this, said Richards. It is indisputable and the official position of the government.
Contractor Apex Construction and architect Cape Architects are already bonded for the project in what Richards called a marriage of the governments biggest contractor and the territorys best architect.
USPS officials will wait to obtain the governments official offer in writing before considering the plan, said Thomas Pino, USPS manager of real estate operations for the New York metro area and the Caribbean.
While most residents at the public hearing agreed the current Cruz Bay post office is woefully out-dated, citizens raised numerous concerns about the USPS-proposed Guinea Grove relocation site.
Guinea Grove Questioned
USPS officials outlined a proposal to move the Cruz Bay post office to a not-yet constructed building in the new Guinea Grove commercial complex across from the Westin Resort on South Shore Road over Jacobs Ladder from Cruz Bay.
Lack of public transportation especially for senior citizens on South Shore Road, the narrow and steep road up Jacobs Ladder, increased traffic after the Enighed Commercial Port opens and the inconvenience of being out of town were the main concerns raised by about 25 residents who attended the public hearing.
We would have to go up Jacobs Ladder and there is a very dangerous intersection at the top which would be a real problem, said one resident opposed to the proposed relocation site.
No one argues that we need this but there are a number of questions that need to be addressed like safety, construction at the Westin, Enighed Pond and numerous trucks in the area on the narrow road, said another resident.
The USPS is looking to solicit postal unit contractors throughout Cruz Bay and Coral Bay who would be licensed to accept mail and packages but residents would still have to travel to the main facility to pick up parcels, according to St. Thomas postmaster Robert Allen.
Current P.O. Small, Dangerous
The existing Cruz Bay post office is only 2,800 square feet and the number of parcels that flow through the facility creates a dangerous situation for employees and less than perfect service to customers, Allen added.
Building a new facility is the best way for us to get the service that you deserve and improve conditions for our employees, said the St. Thomas postmaster.
The proposed new facility would be 5,200 square feet, be totally handicap accessible, have added post office boxes and include 14 parking spaces and one handicap space, according to Dane Weir, USPS manager of design and construction for the New York metro area and Caribbean.
This project is long over due and we have an offer from a potential lessor, said Weir. It would finally address the parcel situation here on St. John.
Small Window of Opportunity
The Guinea Grove proposal is only a small window of opportunity that must be acted upon within the next 60 to 90 days, the USPS real estate operations manager explained.
We are in the process of determining costs of the project and we are listening to your concerns but this is a viable option and we only have a small window of opportunity to act, said Pino.
Pino and other USPS officials have been looking for a new location for the Cruz Bay post office for years.
I have exhausted probably every square foot of space in the Cruz Bay area and this is the closest thing that we have been able to identify in years, said Pino.
This is the first viable thing that weve heard its a go for us, said a local USPS employee who works in the Cruz Bay post office. We are so clustered right now it is starting to affect us.
Some residents at the meeting felt that the USPS should take advantage of the opportunity of relocating the post office because delays would only make the problem worse.
If we try to stop this project its going to take 10 more years to get another serious offer, said a resident. We should take advantage of this opportunity.