Olpe will be without a post office in two weeks, due to what the U.S. Postal Service calls a “change of ownership.”
“We found out, probably two or three weeks ago, that there was a lease issue,” Mayor Keith Pimple said Monday. “We didn’t find out until last week that there was not an agreement made.”
A letter sent to residents Friday by Emporia Postmaster Tess Weimar says the USPS had a “loss of lease” on its Olpe location at 118 Westphalia Street.
“They lease it from Cory Haag, who owns the building,” Pimple said.
Haag confirmed that in an email to The Gazette Monday.
“I have owned the Olpe property and leased to the post office... for over 20 years,” the Emporia developer wrote.
Haag indicated that he negotiated with the USPS for more than a year, but could not reach a new agreement.
“My understanding from those discussions, well over a year ago, is they were looking to relocate the Post Office to a new location,” Haag wrote.
Haag added that the current lease expires Thursday, June 30. He has no plans for the property at this point.
The planned early shutdown next week is because the USPS wants to do “a de-post-ification, is what they stated to us,” Pimple said.
“The Postal Service will temporarily install centralized mailboxes in Olpe as soon as possible,” the letter from Weimar said.
Pimple said the city has negotiated a “downtown area” location with a landowner for what he calls the “cluster boxes.” He declined to say exactly where it will be.
By Saturday, May 14, postal services for Olpe will be moved to the Emporia post office 10 miles away, at 625 Merchant St.
“Customers are reminded to bring photo identification,” Weimar wrote.
USPS.com indicates the Madison post office is slightly closer to Olpe, at nine miles away.
Pimple said he talked with Postal Service officials last week, and discovered the USPS leases a lot of its locations nationwide.
The loss of a post office for any reason, large or small, can seem like a slap to a city.
“It was definitely concerning to us,” the mayor said. “They promised that this is just a temporary disruption in post office service.”
But it’s happened to small towns in other parts of the country.
South Bend, Nebraska, a town with about 100 residents between Omaha and Lincoln, lost its post office several years ago. WOWT-TV reported the lease was not considered cost-effective.
In that case, cluster boxes were installed for a time. A new local office now is in place there, open two hours a day.
That could be what happens in Olpe, population around 550.
“Their intent is to get a new post office in town, whether through an existing building or new construction,” Pimple said. “The post office has a modular building that they have brought in to other communities in the past.”
But that matter largely is out of the city’s hands.
“We don’t have a whole lot of buildings that are unoccupied,” Pimple said. Olpe has only a couple, and the city doesn’t own them.
“That will be a discussion between the post office and those owners of those buildings,” Pimple said. “The city will help in any way that we can.”
He added that the city of Olpe doesn’t even own any vacant property which the USPS could use.
The Olpe post office remains open weekday mornings from 8 a.m. until noon and from 8:15-8:30 a.m. Saturday. Weimar said the collection box outside the building will not be affected, nor will rural route service.
But in two weeks, a waiting game will begin. Weimar calls it a “temporary suspension,” but Olpe residents must wait to find out how long that lasts.
“It can be a month. It can be six months. It can be a year,” Pimple said. “The Post Office doesn’t move incredibly fast when it comes to these types of situations.”
A lack of speed clouds the overall reputation of the U.S. Postal Service these days.
It started with accusations that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy planned to reduce mail service during the 2020 presidential election to help Donald Trump win reelection.
More recently, DeJoy ordered that distribution centers hold mail an extra day if workers are running late. He’s also talked about consolidating postal facilities.
Pimple hopes that a postal plot is not at work in Olpe. He thinks it should be about staying relevant.
“Their customers are the people that live in these communities — big, small, medium-sized,” the mayor said. “If they take the postal service out of small communities, they’re going to lose more business than they anticipate.”