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Editorial: Requiring more government involvement isn't the answer to post office move
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The 29,000-square-foot post office building on an almost 3-acre lot on Green Street in Gainesville is for sale. - photo by Scott Rogers

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville has made no secret of the fact he is more than frustrated by the Postal Service’s inexplicably slow and secretive process for moving forward with the relocation of the Gainesville Post Office.

And with good reason.

It’s been well over a year since postal officials announced, finally, that the postal retail facility on Green Street would be relocated. But we still don’t know when that’s actually going to happen, or where the new facility might be. And beyond its initial announcement, the USPS has been less than forthcoming with information.

The Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager
  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown
  • David George
  • Mandy Harris
  • Brent Hoffman
  • J.C. Smith
  • Tom Vivelo

Collins and Gainesville officials have pressed to make sure a new location keeps the post office somewhere near the downtown area, arguing that it is an important part of the city’s core. The closest postal officials have come to committing to a location was to say a new facility would be “as close as reasonably possible” to the current site on Green Street.

Building or moving a post office is a complicated process that includes soliciting input from the general public and elected officials, as well as a sometimes agonizing site selection and acquisition process that only the federal government could love. Collins thinks local officials need to be even more involved, and took action last week to make sure they are.

It has been obvious the post office needed to be moved for decades. It’s not like the idea for doing so just suddenly popped up on some official’s PowerPoint presentation. It should have been done long before now, and the fact that not even a member of Congress can find out what’s going to happen more than a year after the initial announcement provides ample cause for frustration.

There’s no doubt that the current facility, which has been on Green Street for more than 50 years, needs to be replaced, if for no other reason than to help relieve traffic congestion on the historic city street and to provide sufficient parking for those patrons who do fight their way through traffic to the post office.

The post office opened the current location in 1967. Before it was 10 years old, city officials had already asked for it to be moved. That same request has been repeated for decades, and through the years there has been much talk, and occasionally promises, about a relocation. This time it seems likely, though on what sort of timetable is anyone’s guess.

Brenau has already made it clear it hopes to buy the existing location, which still has a for sale sign out front, if and when the post office moves out. But for now it’s hurry up and wait for everyone.

So it’s easy to understand Collins’ frustration.

Last week he decided to do something about addressing the process, and introduced into the U.S. Congress a bill that would require the postal service to obtain written approval from local governments before making the final selection of a relocation site.

Collins has echoed the concern of Gainesville officials, that the new postal facility should be close to downtown, and at this point no one knows what locations are being considered.

We understand completely the congressman’s reason for submitting the federal legislation for consideration, and the city of Gainesville’s support for the bill, but we think it would be a bad idea and hope it does not win passage.

Under Collins’ proposal, both city and county governments would have to approve of any proposed relocation site before a post office could be moved. We suspect such a measure would add to the already overlong delay associated with the process rather than improve it.

One issue with such legislation is that the areas served by post offices do not fit neatly into the jurisdictions of governments. Patrons served by a single post office, for example, could be residents of multiple counties or cities. So which governments get to say where it goes?

That irritant aside, the bigger question becomes whether we really want local governmental entities across the country to have the deciding say in location of service facilities they have no role in operating.

Do we really want some small-town city council deciding the mayor’s third cousin has a piece of land that’s been on the market for years that would be a lot better for a facility than the one identified by the post office search? Who needs all that space for parking anyway?

Or have to referee a city and county feud over whether a location in the city is better than one outside of town? Imagine the city/county conflicts that pop up all the time in Georgia over everything from street paving to libraries, multiply that by 50 states, and relocating of post offices may take on the complexity of space travel.

The current site acquisition process allows for input from local government officials, but doesn’t give them decision-making authority. We can’t see that doing so will guarantee improvements to the process, and suspect it could actually make it worse.

It may well be that Collins’ “Community Post Office Act” was meant as a shot across the bow to get the postal service to pay more attention to the communities they serve and to improve a flawed relocation process, rather than a determined attempt to make a change. If that’s the case, we can only hope it works.

From our vantage point across the street from the Gainesville Post Office, it’s pretty obvious the relocation process needs fixing. We’re just not sure adding more governmental bureaucracy, and all the potential for conflict and confusion that doing so entails, is the answer.

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