A disappointing public meeting on closing Boca's Downtown Post Office

 Is this to be our new Boca raton post office?

Is this to be our new Boca raton post office?

The US Postal Service held its perfunctory meeting on the possible closing of Boca’s only downtown Post Office on March 29th. As expected, an overflow crowd of very unhappy residents showed up—despite the fact that the public session was scheduled at 4:30 in the afternoon on the eve of Passover and Easter.

Mr. Damian Salazar, a “real estate specialist” from USPS’ Dallas office conducted the meeting.  He has obviously done this before. He explained 1) that the current situation is the result of the Post Office losing its lease; 2) that USPS would really like to relocate to a smaller, more efficient location somewhere “nearby”; 3) that there is a legal process which is triggered by this public meeting, followed by 30 days for comment and then a “decision”; 4) USPS has identified some alternative sites, but is nowhere close to choosing any one of them, if they choose any at all.  He offered a vague pledge to keep the current location operating “until a suitable alternative can be found and provided we have a lease,” but then admitted that the decision was not his to make.

Mr. Salazar then took “questions” from the floor.  His scattershot approach to receiving citizen input further exacerbated the frustration of those present. However, amidst the somewhat chaotic outrage, a few important facts emerged:

SUN SENTINEL AD TO HELP SAVE BOCA's DOWNTOWN POST OFFICE

  1. The USPS does have a four-year lease on the property. It was signed by the landlord seven months ago and has been sitting on somebody’s desk at USPS ever since. It is a four-year extension, but the landlord was never advised that USPS was looking for a ten-year lease as Mr. Salazar claimed. The landlord, who was at the meeting, expressed a willingness to negotiate a 10-year lease and he even offered to work with USPS to help them relocate to another of his properties once they sign the lease. This was above Mr. Salazar’s pay grade, but he promised to pass along the offer.
  2. After today’s public meeting, the public has 30 days to send comments in writing (hard copy) to Mr. Damian Salazar, 7800 N. Stemmons Fwy., Suite 400, Dallas, TX 75247-4220. Only hard copies by mail will do. Apparently the USPS needs the business. It is very important that each and every one of us who cares about our downtown post office write to Mr. Salazar. It can be short and sour, it just has to be in writing. They will be counting the number of letters they receive.
  3. At the end of the 30-days, a “decision” on the future of Boca’s downtown post office will be made. Mr. Salazar had to admit that a possible decision might be to close the post office, “although that is not what we want to do.”
  4. The lease issue was not Mr. Salazar’s only credibility problem. The USPS maintains a public list of sites that are being considered for closure. Boca’s downtown post office has been on that list for many years. In fact, the Mayor and city officials were successful in their attempt to keep the post office open several years ago. To say this has all come about because their lease is up in July is a bit disingenuous… maybe as disingenuous as them claiming that this is all about relocation.
  5. The good news is that today’s public meeting was very well attended, with an overflow crowd at the Community Center Annex. The attendees were quick to register their anger. The bad news is that such a reaction was expected and did not change any USPS minds at the meeting. But maybe that doesn’t matter because we were repeatedly told that they were not the decision makers.

The bottom line: today’s meeting was just the opening gambit in the procedural game that’s about to unfold. Boca’s downtown post office is clearly at risk. A decision to close could come as early as May.

What should we be doing about it? 

  1. First, send a letter to Mr. Salazar expressing your outrage at the possible closure and the process. If they are seriously considering alternative sites, why aren’t we holding public meetings about THAT? 
  2. Second, urge USPS to work with the current landlord to find a compromise that will keep our 2nd Street station open. 
  3. Third, send a copy of your letter to Boca’s Congressman Ted Deutch, US House of Representatives, Washington DC. And a copy to each of our US Senators: Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, at the US Senate, Washington, DC. Do this within the next two weeks! Do it today!

The fate of Boca’s downtown post office will ultimately be decided in Washington. If we are to influence that process, we must show that we are united and determined to keep the 2nd Street station open. Boca’s City Council has already passed a non-binding resolution to that effect; we have shown up in force to express our displeasure; organizations such as BocaBeautiful and BocaWatch will be contributing to the lobbying effort in Washington. We will be pushing for a large letter writing campaign in the weeks ahead to bolster our case.

Thanks to those who attended the CRA meeting on Monday and today’s pro forma session with the US Postal Service bureaucrats. Attending these things is about as much fun as a root canal, but your participation is key to our ability to influence the outcome.