S.E. Redmond post office sees steady flow of customers five months after relocation

It's been about five months since the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) closed its downtown Redmond post office and moved retail operations to Southeast Redmond and officials said things have been going well.

Ernie Swanson, a spokesperson for the USPS's Seattle district, said there were some initial questions and concerns from customers about having to drive further east to the post office, but not anymore.

"It seems any concerns or apprehension have gone away," he said.

Despite a less-centralized location, Swanson said post office workers do not think there has been any real drop in customers at the Southeast Redmond site and they were very busy during the holidays.

The move to 7241 185th Ave. N.E. came after an unsuccessful search for a new downtown location as a decline in mail service prompted USPS to find a smaller location. Swanson said this drop in service is a trend USPS is seeing nationwide as more people move to electronic means to take care of tasks previously done by mail such as communicating and paying bills.

USPS is also required to pay the federal government an annual fee of $5.5 billion to "pre-fund" future retiree benefits through the year 2081 as a result of the 2006 Postal Accountability Enhancement Act. With the decreasing mail volume — USPS went from 214 billion pieces in 2006 to 167 billion pieces in 2011, according to earlier reports — and as a result, a decreasing revenue, making these annual payments is not easy. USPS defaulted on its payment on Sept. 30, 2011 and was given until Aug. 1, 2012 to make the late payment. USPS was unable to make the payment, nor was it able to make the annual payment for 2012, which was due Sept. 30, 2012.

Swanson said USPS is selling off properties nationwide to accommodate this and closing the downtown Redmond post office was a financial decision.

The Southeast Redmond post office was on a national list of potential sites to be closed this year but in earlier reports, Swanson said it was saved because it is also a delivery distribution center where Eastside-bound mail coming in from Seattle gets sorted before it is distributed throughout northeast King County. Another reason the site was taken off the list is because it is now the only post office in Redmond.

While Swanson said things have been going well with just one post office in town and there is no need for a post office in the downtown, City of Redmond Mayor John Marchione said he is disappointed about the post office moving out of the downtown core.

Marchione called this move poor customer service and why USPS does not receive much support from the general public, adding that government shouldn't mistreat its customers for support.

The mayor said he hopes USPS will come to its senses and bring its retail operations back to downtown Redmond.

Before the downtown post office closed at the end of July 2012, USPS had been looking at a new downtown location at 8215 160th Ave. N.E. However, earlier reports state that officials determined it didn't make good business sense, in light of USPS's financial issues, to lease a new location when there was an existing post office within two miles.

Once the idea for a new standalone post office was scrapped, USPS spent some time looking into opening a contract postal unit (CPU), which is a post office within a commercial business. CPUs offers all the services of a standalone post office except for post office box rentals.

Swanson said throughout this search, they did not find anyone interested so things have been put on hold.

"It's not active right now," he said about the search for a possible CPU in downtown Redmond.

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