Officials deliver ruling on appeal of Feb. 5 relocation decision
The U.S. Postal Service has finalized its decision to close and sell its main post office building at 424 S. Kansas Ave. in downtown Topeka.
Tom Samra, the postal service’s vice president for facilities, this week sent Mayor Larry Wolgast a letter informing him the postal service wouldn’t set aside its Feb. 5 decision to relocate services from that building to a yet-to-be-determined location, regional postal service spokesman Brian Sperry said Thursday.
Sperry said the final determination letter, dated April 25, was delivered to Wolgast via certified mail Tuesday. A copy of the letter was posted Wednesday at the post office building, Sperry said.
Wolgast said he was officially notified of the decision Thursday.
He said: “The city will continue to work with the USPS and all appropriate parties to ensure that the facility is reused in a manner that promotes the economic vitality of downtown, the city of Topeka and Shawnee County. The city will also work to ensure that the historic nature of the property, especially the courtroom associated with the historic Brown v. Board landmark decision, is preserved and celebrated. City officials have been, and will continue to be, engaged in conversations focused on addressing this challenge.”
Wolgast also said city officials would continue to work with downtown landlords and the postal service to ensure that postal services continue to be made available in a convenient and accessible location downtown.
The postal service’s downtown building has served customers as Topeka’s main post office since 1932. The postal service in January sent city officials a letter indicating it intended to sell the building and its nearby parking lot at 401 S. Kansas Ave.
The postal service subsequently received letters appealing the relocation decision and others, including one from Wolgast, not appealing the decision but requesting that the postal service seek to mitigate any adverse effects a sale might have.
Samra indicated the postal service received comments and requests for review from Wolgast’s office, the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, the National Park Service, several organizations and several customers.
Samra’s final determination letter said: “I have carefully considered all of the concerns expressed in each of those communications, along with relevant portions of the project file relating to the relocation proposal. While I appreciate the concerns raised, for the reasons set forth below, I will not set aside the postal service’s decision.”
Samra wrote that while the postal service is sensitive to the impact of the determination on its customers and the Topeka community, he felt satisfied the decision properly took into account community input and was consistent with postal service objectives.
“Postal service operations are not supported by tax dollars,” Samra wrote. “To be self-sustaining, the postal service must make decisions that ensure it provides adequate and affordable postal services in a manner that is as efficient and economical as possible.”
Samra indicated some appellants expressed concerns about the historic nature of the property, particularly its status as the place where a three-judge federal panel in 1951 heard testimony as part of proceedings that led to the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, which banned racial segregation in schools.
Samra wrote that the postal service in selling any historic post office would comply with historic preservation regulations and the National Historic Preservation Act, which provides a “comprehensive, consistent, transparent, consultative process.”
He added, “That process requires identifying historic properties, assessing the effects of postal service undertakings and, in consultation with local officials and with community input, seeking ways to avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse effects on historic properties.”
Samra wrote that the postal service would continue using 424 S. Kansas Avenue until a replacement facility is open and operating as a post office.
He indicated that the postal service, in seeking a new location, would only consider sites that meet all operational needs and are convenient and otherwise suitable for its customers.
The postal service anticipates providing the same services at the new site as at the current site, Samra wrote.
“Additionally, if the postal service proceeds with selling the Topeka MPO building and a prospective purchaser makes a reasonable offer to lease right-sized space back to the postal service for continued postal retail operations, then the postal service will consider that offer,” he wrote.