Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Column 46 - Post Office Call to Action

Aside from the perennial issue of dog waste, little in recent memory has stirred up as much local interest and comment as the relocation of the Incline Village Post Office. What’s interesting is that there has been very little controversy about it – everyone who has commented publicly and everyone I’ve spoken to is, to a greater or lesser extent, against it.

In a series of four articles in the Bonanza, USPS spokesperson Dee Dee Tarrano seemed to take a carrot and stick approach, on the one hand touting the benefits of a new PO and on the other making not very veiled threats of cutbacks in service if community opposition proves to be sufficient that the USPS changes its mind. What Ms Tarrano never addressed is the source of the opposition – I haven’t spoken to anyone who objects to a new or even a larger Post Office – the issue is, as they say in the Real Estate business, location, location, location.

Let me make it very simple so that even a bureaucrat can understand. First, there are serious objections to the Village Boulevard/Incline Way site that the USPS has not addressed. Second, the IVGID Board of Trustees, the Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) and Washoe County are engaged in a planning process for the village as a whole.

Ms Tarrano makes a number of points in her articles that are, at best, dubious. First, she says the current PO has only 40 parking spaces. I am at a loss to see how she arrived at this figure. According to Art Hoff, the owner of the Village Center, there are more than 300 parking spaces in the lot, and all are available to PO patrons, not to mention some 10 spaces that are specifically reserved for USPS delivery vehicles. She objects to TRPA saying a new PO needs a minimum of 47 parking spaces, and says “As I drove around Incline Village, I don’t believe I saw any single business locations that had 47 parking spaces.” (I guess she missed Raley’s.) Her argument continues that it makes no sense for TRPA to require 47 spaces when the current PO is allotted 40 in the TRPA documentation. This is specious reasoning at best – the 40 spaces are for the current building, which is less than half the size of the building being proposed, so she is comparing apples and oranges.

When we look at traffic issues, on the one hand things get more complicated and on the other Ms Tarrano’s statements appear even more disingenuous. First of all, in her articles, Ms Tarrano is at pains to say that Tanager Street (site of the new Fire Station) should not even be discussed – according to her the new PO will only use Village Boulevard and Incline Way. The USPS commissioned a study by LSC Transportation Consultants on the impact of the proposed new PO on traffic and air quality. The Bonanza has obtained copies of this study, the main part of which is 37 pages long (66 pages with appendices) and which is too technical to go into in detail in this column. A few points, however. First, the study specifically includes Tanager Street and the increased traffic it will see. Second, despite Ms Tarrano’s assertion that Incline Way is the “least traveled street in Incline,” the study shows that on average almost 2,000 vehicles use Incline Way every day. That may be the least in Incline (I doubt it) but it is not a small number. The study also shows that the new facility can be expected to have over 5,000 “vehicle trip ends,” i.e., vehicles coming to the PO every day. Figures for the impact of the new facility on air quality and on parking are equally serious, yet Ms Tarrano seems to want us to believe that the new PO will have minimal impact on the village. I don’t think so.

In her second article, Ms Tarrano acknowledges the value of the PO to the businesses in the Village Center and goes on to say “While we understand the economic hardship that this might create for some businesses, it should be noted that the Postal Service is not responsible for maintaining or subsidizing private industry.” If Ms Tarrano ever leaves the USPS, she should consider employment as a scarecrow maker – she is masterful at setting up straw men. No one has suggested that the USPS be “responsible for maintaining or subsidizing private industry.” What is being suggested is that, the USPS consider its responsibilities as an important part of the community and not take actions that may be deleterious to the community’s well-being.

The simple fact is that the USPS could accomplish what it says it wants to accomplish while staying in the Village Center. Art Hoff has said, as he reiterated in his letter to the Bonanza last Friday, that he is prepared to negotiate any reasonable terms to keep the PO in the center. I understand that this could include selling the USPS one of the buildings in the center which they could remodel or rebuild to suit their needs. Ms Tarrano’s articles, however, make it clear by implication that, as far as the USPS is concerned, this can only turn out one way or the community will be punished with further curtailments of service.

In addition to all the very valid questions that have been raised, there is the matter of community planning. Incline Village is a small, very compact community. We are essentially built out, so growth (and by extension increased PO needs) is not an issue. Over the years the community has grown organically and without any real integrated planning except where recreation and certain services are concerned. Now IVGID, the CAB, and the County are taking steps to look at what this community wants and needs as it continues to develop. There are already a few “stakes in the ground” that the planning bodies will need to take as fixed points in their process. The schools are already located and will not be moved. Likewise the new library, the ski area, the golf courses, and the fire houses are fixed points. If the Post Office moves to the proposed location, smack in the middle of the village, there will be that many fewer degrees of freedom in the planning process, particularly given the volume of traffic, parking needs, etc. that the PO entails. If the USPS is at all interested in the needs and wishes of the community of which it is a part, the least they could do is to wait until the planning process is complete and recommendations are forthcoming. Absent significant public pressure, it seems to me unlikely in the extreme that they will do that.

So what is there to do? Letters to the Bonanza are fine, but I would suggest that this is the time for anyone with an opinion to voice it directly to the USPS. I urge you to take Ms Tarrano up on her request for comments by emailing to her at or by writing to Dee Dee Terrano, Manager of Consumer Affairs, United States Postal Service, 1001 E. Sunset Road, Las Vegas, Nevada 89199-9655. I would also urge you to copy the Postmaster General, John. E. Potter at or John E. Potter, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20260-0010. Only fast and massive community pressure has a chance of diverting the USPS juggernaut.

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