LAFAYETTE - The downtown post office is being eyed for possible closure less than eight months after it moved into a new city-owned building near the intersection of Jefferson and Cypress streets, according to the U.S. Postal Service.
The downtown location is one of 51 post offices in Louisiana being studied for possible closure as part of a nationwide effort to cut costs, according to a list released this week by the postal service.
Inclusion of the downtown post office on the list does not mean that it will be closed, but it does mean that the postal service plans to scrutinize operations there to determine how well the office is covering its expenses.
“You have to consider the financial reality,” U.S. Postal Service spokesman Earl Artis said.
He said the postal service is in a “financial crisis situation.”
The scrutiny of the downtown facility comes after the post office moved into the city-parish government’s new two-story Rosa Parks Transportation Center in December.
The building that was home to the old post office was demolished earlier this year.
The new two-story Rosa Parks building houses Lafayette’s Traffic and Transportation Department, but a portion of the first-floor was built to the specifications of the post office, and the federal government signed a 10-year lease with the city.
“I understand the concerns and questions,” acting Lafayette Postmaster Trent Nelson said when asked why the postal service would close the city’s newest post office.
Nelson said he had no role in the decision to study the downtown location and that he learned of it only Tuesday.
He emphasized the process is still in the early stages and that the downtown post office might ultimately remain open.
“It’s just a study,” he said.
City-parish officials said they were not notified about the study of the downtown location.
Traffic and Transportation Director Tony Tramel, who helped negotiate the deal to locate the post office at the Rosa Parks building, said in an email Wednesday that postal officials he tried to reach about the issue had yet to respond.
Tramel also said that he believes the downtown post office might have been placed on the closure-study list before the office moved to the new location and before the current 10-year-lease with city-parish government, which calls for an annual payment of about $119,000.
City-parish officials were unclear Wednesday what would become of the lease agreement should the post office close.
Artis said studies of the post offices tagged for possible closure are expected to begin soon and should take about four and half months.
A community meeting will be scheduled where the public will have an opportunity to comment on any possible closure, Artis said.
The impact on the public and postal workers will factor into the decision, he said.
“I think we can make a pretty strong case to keep it,” Downtown Development Authority Director Cathy Webre said of the downtown location.
She said the downtown post office has always seemed active, even more so since the new location opened.
Nelson said that there could be outcomes of the study other than closure, such as keeping open the retail section and post office boxes but shifting the delivery routes to another location, or closing the retail section and keeping the post office boxes and delivery routes.
The downtown post office is one of six in Lafayette.
Two other post offices are being studied for possible closure in Acadiana: Avery Island and Chataignier.