Former mayor Sullivan: ‘An endless process which finally has ended’
After a long hard fought battle, the Town of Washington has preserved its centuries-old post office.
Rather than issuing any formal statement regarding its decision to reverse course and keep the circa 1804 post office within the county seat, the U.S. Postal Service simply allowed developer Tim Tedrick of Mid Atlantic Postal Properties to appear at Washington Town Hall last evening (Wednesday) with new post office site plans in hand.
Following a 35-minute presentation to Washington Mayor Fred Catlin, former Mayor John Fox Sullivan, and other town officials, the Architectural Review Board gave unanimous thumbs-up to a project that will see a new brick veneer post office constructed within town boundaries along Leggett Lane.
“An ‘endless’ process which finally has ‘ended’ with the decision to stay in town,” remarked a visibly pleased Sullivan after seeing the architectural drawings for the first time.
“Keeping the Post Office in town has been one huge piece of unfinished business during my time as mayor and I am over the top happy,” said Sullivan, who left office in December. “Everybody wins. A new building appropriate for post office needs, as well as satisfying the expressed desire of its users to keep it in town where it has been for 215 years.”
It was two years ago that the post office announced it was leaving its current Main Street location and almost a year since it was revealed by a third party that it would leave the historic town altogether for a new highway location midway between Washington and Sperryville.
To say the town was caught off guard by the abrupt change in strategy — and lack of communication — by postal officials would be an understatement. Catlin and Sullivan called postal officials’ site selection process “opaque and non-transparent,” detecting “behind-the-scenes-machinations” they couldn’t understand.
The Rappahannock News later discovered that a top U.S. Postal Board official in Washington, D.C. had abruptly weighed in on the site selection, prompted by an influential Rappahannock resident — a former chairman of the U.S. Postal Service’s governing body — who personally wanted a new highway location two miles south of the town.
“Our Washington community would just not give up,” Sullivan said after Wednesday’s site presentation, where Tedrick announced “we’ll start moving dirt” for a new post office “September 1” with a projected completion date “sixty days” later.
“We’re under pressure,” he reminded town officials, given the current post office lease on Main Street will soon expire.
The new building will front Leggett Lane near its intersection with Warren Avenue, a main entrance to the town, preserving existing “wetlands” to the south of the structure. Given previous complaints from citizens about a lack of parking at the current location, “the post office has made us put the maximum amount of parking spaces for a 2,000-square-foot building, which is 22, so there will be plenty of parking for everyone,” Tedrick observed.
“You will notice in the general standard postal design they like to use the hardiplank,” the developer added, referring to a combination of cellulose fibers and cementitious materials, “but I have informed them that the ARB will not accept that and they are going with the ultimate wall, which is brick all the way around. So you’re getting a completely brick veneer building.”
He said the new building’s exterior will include “fully handicap accessible” parking and sidewalks, directional surface-mounted lighting to allow for safety while keeping with the nearby county park’s “dark skies” designation, green landscaping, a flagpole, and as proposed by Sullivan on Wednesday a possible informational kiosk similar to one found today outside the current post office. Modern postal signage will also be kept at a bare minimum, as is presently the case on Main Street.
Among the building’s many indoor features, also completely handicap accessible, will be 30 percent more post office boxes than found in the current facility, and natural lighting in both the customer and mail sorting areas.
Sullivan praised Tedrick at the end of his presentation, reminding those in attendance that despite continuous “roadblocks” thrown up in every direction he personally worked side-by-side with the town “at coming up with solutions so that we could keep the post office here.”
Editor’s note: This online version of a breaking news story will be updated in next week’s edition.