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Thursday, April 19 News

Post office relocation causing stir in New Canaan

The New Canaan post office officially moved to two different temporary locations in town, but the transition has been far from smooth.

Problems include mobile unit malfunctions, confused residents and an alleged disposal of vintage mailboxes.

A week after the post office shut down operations at 2 Pine St., some residents are confused about what services each of the temporary sites is offering. The Chamber of Commerce and the Town Clerk's Office have been fielding several calls from residents who are concerned about the relocation or don't know where to go.

Last week, the post office's mobile unit, which offers mail and retail services, had connectivity and electricity problems and did not work properly until Saturday. The truck is parked by the drop-off mailboxes across from the old post office location.

On what was supposed to be its first day of operations, Jan. 21, the portable post office was closed because it didn't have Internet. On at least two other days last week, according to an email exchange between the First Selectman's Office and U.S. Postal Service officials, the truck had to close because it didn't have heat.

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Post office temporary locations:
90 Main St. -- Post office box
Lobby hours: Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Post office box mail available for pick up after 11 a.m.

1 Pine St. (corner of Pine and Park streets) -- This mobile unit by the drop-off mailboxes offers all post office retail services and allows customers to mail packages and letters
Hours: Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

In a Jan. 23 email to postal service officials, First Selectman Robert Mallozzi said he was "very disappointed."

"The effort put forth by the Postal Service in managing the transition to a temporary location is absolutely unacceptable, unconscionable and will not be tolerated," Mallozzi wrote.

U.S. Postal Service spokesman Christine Dugas said Tuesday that the truck is now "up and running."

"We did have some issues with connectivity, to do the transactions, and also a little electrical issue that popped up later," Dugas said. "But all is fixed. We are operational and everything is going just fine."

The post office, which had been at 2 Pine St. for more than 50 years, shut down operations there Jan. 18. Besides the mobile unit, another temporary location opened last week at 90 Main St., where customers can pick up their mail.

In another email last week, Mallozzi told Joseph Mulvey, a real estate specialist for the post office, that residents were complaining that the three receptacles by the mobile unit were "packed."

"Please get out there and service those mailboxes," Mallozzi wrote.

Minutes after that request, USPS Review Coordinator Barbara Mastroianni wrote back to Mallozzi. "I would like to apologize for the inconvenience that the New Canaan community is experiencing at this time," she said.

In a new development, New Canaan resident Andrea Sandor has contacted several town and state officials after she heard the post office was throwing out what she calls "antique designed mailboxes." Wooden and metal mailboxes were seen in two trash receptacles behind the old post office location Monday, but the brass mailbox doors have been sent to a postal service's asset management site, Dugas said.

"They are still in our possession and they'll stay in our possession," Dugas said. "We'll make a determination on what to do with them at a later date."

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Sandor said those materials are the only "historic legacy" left from the New Canaan post office. Dugas, who could not confirm how old the boxes were, said the metal and wooden ones were not reusable, but she assured the brass doors would not be thrown out.

If a deal for a new permanent site is in the near future, it still would take up to two months to "postalize" that space, Dugas said this month. By that, she means the post office would have to consider factors such as loading and parking capacities, insurance needs and water availability.

"These include factors such as foot traffic, number of rented post office boxes, and ability to provide appropriate work space and security for our operations," Melissa Lohnes, another USPS spokesman, said in December. "Our negotiations for a site may also include factors such as the willingness of a new landlord to provide modifications or regular maintenance to a location as well as fair market pricing for our needs."

Dugas has said the postal service still is committed to finding a permanent space for the post office.

Jan Finn, a 27-year resident of New Canaan, said the temporary relocation has been an inconvenience to the town.

"This situation is terrible," Finn said. "Having been a resident of New Canaan for a long time, I think the post office is an essential part of living in this town. It's a real part of the community."

Finn also said town officials should have done more to help the post office relocate.

It was more than a year of negotiations between the postal service and Elm Street Partners before the two failed to reach an agreement to renew the lease for the Pine Street location.

Mrs. Green's Natural Market, an organic grocer, has signed a lease for that space and is expected to move in soon.

The postal service has encouraged residents who live near the Camp Avenue post office in Stamford to use that location. The post office at 24 Camp Ave. has a self-service kiosk for 24/7 retail service.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson

Nelson Oliveira|Education/general assignment reporter