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Everyone in our 22747 zip code has been deeply affected by the closure of our local post office in Little Washington. It has been a long ordeal, and even though construction has begun on our new one, you deserve a full explanation of the process that has led to this point. It is a story that is at once frustrating yet inspirational with persons like you making sacrifices in order to stay true to the goal of a new, attractive, and accessible post office for our use.
All too often these days, the good works of people trying to do their jobs get drowned out by the accusations, the innuendos, and the feverish atmosphere of the moment. Rather than see the negativity, I see the hard work and earnest endeavor to get construction underway and headed toward completion. And I see at the front of the line patrons such as you who have had to endure this seemingly unending process and have done so with patience and understanding.
2018: Search for a new site
It all began with the arrival of a real estate representative of the U.S. Postal Service in early 2018. He announced at a Washington Town Council meeting that the USPS would be searching for a new site for the post office based on three criteria: an in-town location in an existing building with the ability to handle tractor-trailer deliveries. Town officials led by then-Mayor John Sullivan spent a great deal of time identifying alternatives that were presented to the USPS. Unbeknownst to everyone, a former member of the USPS Board of Governors living in the County sampled some of his neighbors, came to the conclusion that the new site should not be in the town, and recommended that to the USPS. That member's recommendation apparently held great weight in the decision by the USPS in the late spring of 2018 to abandon two of its three initial criteria for the relocation and choose a site off of Route 211, two miles outside of the town.
To the USPS credit, it allowed Town officials to resubmit an in-town alternative (the current site of construction) in the fall of 2018 that was turned down. Thanks to the investigative work of John McCaslin at the Rappahannock News, the decision-making process was made clear in early 2019 and received harsh scrutiny from you and other local citizens. After learning about the decision-making process, the brand-new Town Council along with former Mayor Sullivan and others worked intensely to re-open the selection process once more, corresponding with state and federal officials, preparing a petition which many of you signed, and developing incentives to make the in-town site be more attractive.
Finally, in August of 2019, the USPS authorized its designated builder, Tim Tedrick of Mid Atlantic Postal Properties to purchase the property at the intersection of Leggett Lane and Warren Avenue and begin the construction. Mr. Tedrick has built dozens of post offices. The USPS prefers not to own any land; rather, they have the builder purchase a designated property and construct the building on the understanding that the USPS will enter into a long-term lease for a post office at the location. Mr. Tedrick has also been a hero throughout this process, even though this project is very small compared to his overall slate of construction work, but he has been taken by the charm of the community and its earnestness in keeping its local post office. He has been an advocate for the town with the USPS. He has helped keep the project going when forces inside and outside the federal government wished to cancel the entire project. To date, he has sunk an enormous amount of capital into this project, and he has had to endure unremitting pressure to complete it expeditiously from USPS and Little Washington officials.
Fall 2019: Old post office closes
The Washington post office closed in September of 2019, and many of us believed that the transition to Sperryville would be short-term. In fact, town officials had investigated different locations in the town for a temporary post office during the closure, but the USPS opted for the Sperryville site. When renovation of the brick building that had housed the post office began in the late fall of 2019, the town never received any official notice or request for assistance about the relocation of the blue mailbox at the site. Instead, it was pulled.
I will admit that it only came to my consciousness sometime later, and I did not pursue getting a new blue mailbox because I believed that the new post office would be constructed in a matter of months and the blue mailbox thereby re-situated at the new location. Even in the fall of 2020, as my patience ran out, I spoke with the postmistress about the blue mailbox, scouted useful locations, and discussed it with a county official, but held off from vigorously pursuing it because I had been led to believe that approvals were obtained and the construction would be done by February 1. I was also led to believe that federal administrators were ready to abandon the entire construction project if there were any more political agitation regarding the Washington post office.
After the completion of construction drawings and site plans, they were submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in October 2019. The Corps is allowed six months to reply to any application, in part because it is overburdened and understaffed, but the Corps serves an important role by overseeing the water quality in our country. The Corps rejected the initial site plan in March of 2020, requiring Mr. Tedrick to redesign the site plans to include a higher-level stormwater management system that added over $100,000 to the project's expense, a substantial amount in relation to the overall cost of the project. The Corps approved the revised plans in May of 2020. The USPS should be commended for sticking by its commitment to the town and 22747 patrons by staying with this site.
Mr. Tedrick then began going through the local and state approval processes needed for any construction project. In doing their important jobs responsibly, these local and state officials added months of delay to this project. Throughout this time, town officials were meeting with these state and local officials to try to expedite the process of approval. County Administrator Garrey Curry assisted whenever possible.
Fall 2020: Construction begins
Finally, in the late fall of 2020, the actual construction process, which all of us had hoped would start much, much earlier, began. The sub-contractor was able to complete the initial site work and install the extensive stormwater management system. Since it is all on or below ground, it appeared throughout the holiday season that nothing had been done. That was not the case. Once the earth began to be moved, it was discovered that there were numerous springs and other wet spots on the property, and fixes to these construction site issues have taken us to mid-January.
Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Tedrick, Council member Brad Schneider, whose engineering background has been of enormous help, and Monomoy Construction and other sub-contractors, the project is entering its next stage. There is now evidence of actual construction going on, and there are very few natural obstacles that can impede progress from this point forward. Contractors began digging footer trenches last Thursday in preparation for pouring concrete for the footers and the building pad this week. The building materials such as bricks and trusses have been ordered. Once the pad dries, they will begin the actual building of the structure: framing, bricklaying, connecting utilities, putting on a roof, laying down a paved parking lot and sidewalks, and landscaping.
June 2021: Opening date
The USPS wants the building ready for occupation by June 1, if not sooner.
In summary, this entire process is not one that I imagined could take this long nor wanted to endure.
Despite my frustrations, the amount of time I have personally invested in meetings, calls, and listening to rightfully upset and frustrated citizens and other politicians, and the dismay I feel at each new delay and setback to date, I am still enthusiastic and grateful. I am enthusiastic that the project has gone beyond the point of no return and is tangibly on the way to completion.
I am grateful to the spirit, cooperation, and effort of many people, residents and local officials, to make this dream of a new post office a reality.
Most of all, I am grateful for your patience. The new post office, while not extravagant, will be large enough to handle patrons’ needs, the parking lot will be safer than the old location, and it will serve as a testament to the community's patience and endurance.
Town of Washington, Virginia