By Debby Woodin
The city of Joplin has been notified by the U.S. Postal Service a request to consolidate Joplin’s two post offices has been denied.
That is the initial decision conveyed Friday to City Manager Mark Rohr. He said he was told the decision came as the result of a study the Postal Service did, but that he believes that more information needs to be provided and that could eventually win agreement from postal authorities in Washington, D.C.
“I asked the contact I have in the USPS to provide a copy of the decision to understand the rationale, and maybe there are some things we can do to make sure they have an understanding of what we are proposing,” Rohr said.
He said the plan may make more sense to federal authorities once they understand the entire plan and the reasons for it.
“I think the relocation of the post offices is important for two reasons,” he said. “First is the safety. Both locations may have made sense at some point but I think they are dangerous now” because of traffic and access points.
“Secondly, that would have impact on some initiatives that have been set within the community,” including the Stimulating Progress through Arts, Recreation and Knowledge, or SPARK, and the redevelopment of Langston Hughes-Broadway.
Streetscaping and other work could be done on Broadway for business and housing redevelopment, city officials have discussed in the past.
SPARK is a project to construct a performing arts theater and visual arts gallery and amenities downtown.
Rohr said he intends to find out what information is contained in a study that was the basis for the Postal Service decision.
“I wish the study would have gone the other way but sometimes you have got to use this as a starting point and develop some kind of response to the initial decision, and I think that’s what we’re in a position to do,” Rohr said of the decision.
Gary Box, Joplin operations manager for Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, the city’s contracted master developer in the tornado recovery, said he views it as a preliminary decision.
“This starts more of the process,” Box said. “It is still on the front burner.”
Box said that although local and regional postal officials favor the proposal, it will take more conversations and submissions of information to detail the project in order to obtain the approval of officials in Washington.
The Joplin Redevelopment Corp., at the recommendation of the master developer, agreed recently to purchase the former Coca-Cola Bottling Co. property at 1301 Virginia Ave. for the new post office site. More land in that area is sought for the project.
Box said it has been his experience on government projects that a request is first denied, and then negotiations take place.
“They may think Joplin is asking them to build the new facility, and that’s not what this offer is,” he said. “It may be a miscommunication.”
He said the new post office would be constructed and leased to the Postal Service, and there would be no cost to the postal service for the construction.
Rohr said the current post office sites would be purchased, which would give the postal service cash.
Joplin officials also will call on Sen. Roy Blunt, Sen. Clair McCaskill and U.S. Rep. Billy Long to speak on behalf of the proposal, Box said.
“We are going to proceed with the idea that it’s going to be accepted at some level,” he said.
Gary Box, Joplin operations manager for Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, the city’s contracted master developer in the tornado recovery, said a similar proposal was initially denied in Kansas City, but was approved after more extensive negotiations.