Downtown post office closure deadline looms

Downtown Albany's post office at 345 W. Broad Ave.

Downtown Albany's post office at 345 W. Broad Ave.

ALBANY, Ga. -- The property manager whose efforts to keep a 100-year-old post office branch open are bearing little fruit asked the Dougherty County Commission on Monday for help in reaching out to U.S. Postal Service officials.

Frances Krack, a representative of Loanstar Equities, which manages the historic downtown Albany post office building at 345 W. Broad Ave., told commissioners the USPS contract for utilization of the facility will end Sept. 30. Two extensions staved off planned closure in December 2012 and June.

"We have located an entrepreneur who wants to operate that property as a village post office, which would allow for other retail uses so that they wouldn't have to rely just on postal services for income," Krack said. "(The USPS) even solicited a private entrepreneur that could keep the facility open when we first talked to them, but now we're at a point where they don't even respond to our letters.

"They've gone so far as to send workers in to take measurements, and I think they're preparing to remove the post office boxes from the walls. I have a great love for that building; I'm about ready to attach myself to the boxes to keep them from tearing them out. They tell us we're not in a rural area, so we don't meet the criteria (required of the village post office concept). We're asking them to make an exception, and I'm asking y'all for any support you can give."

Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard offered harsh words for USPS officials.

"(The Postal Service's response) is both absurd and ridiculous," Sinyard said. "It shouldn't take this much effort to get this done. With all due respect to (USPS officials), we're trying to be very positive and upbeat. We're simply asking them to allow us to have a village post office at that facility."

After a lengthy discussion, the commission voted 5-1 to approve the solicitation process for recommending a lessee for the vacant Southside Library building. The proposed process was recommended by the county's Governmental Affairs Committee.

"Very simply, it boils down to our obligation to give the general public an opportunity to utilize this facility since we've decided that we will not use it as a library," Governmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman and District 5 Commissioner Gloria Gaines said. "We believe our proposal will do that."

District 2 Commissioner John Hayes said he would support the proposal if it were used to set a precedent for all such buildings in the future, but he questioned the committee's plan to make its proposal specific to the Southside Library.

"(The committee) propose(s) that we use the process for this building," Gaines responded. "If it goes smoothly, we could formally utilize it for any such building that becomes available in the future. We figure if there are any kinks in the process, we can come back and tweak them."

Hayes cast the lone vote against the proposal.

Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful Executive Director Judy Bowles gave commissioners a report on Keep America Beautiful's litter index taken at certain areas of the county. The overall county score of 1.27 (on a scale of 1-4) showed the county only slightly above KAB's "no litter" threshold. The county's index has remained between 1.24 and 1.75 since 2000.

"Our effort to stop litter is like a three-legged stool," Bowles said. "We have citizen involvement, and we're constantly working to educate the public. The element we're missing is enforcement. If we don't make litter a priority, things will stay as they are in our community.

"We're going to have to write citations, humiliate people who are caught littering. Our state spent $16 million last year picking up trash off our highways."

Sinyard, who had openly appealed to citizens to curtail litter at a commission work session two weeks ago, called on law enforcement to take a tough stance against littering.

"It's embarrassing to see what's going on," he said. "We as officials need to support citations for people caught littering."