Undeliverable: Even the feds priced out of Jackson

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – When county commissioner Smokey Rhea heard rumors the USPS was considering closing the downtown Post Office, she thought it was an April Fool’s joke.

No joke, councilman Jim Stanford explained, as he recently implored his colleagues to join him in drafting a letter to the US Postal Service explaining that shutting down the ‘01’ Post Office would “run contrary to community planning goals.”

“The Postal Service has informed us they are considering closing the Post Office on Pearl and may already be taking steps to do that,” Stanford said after he and Mayor Pete Muldoon met with a rep from the USPS.

In a letter to the town council, Jackson resident Bonnie Koeln said she has heard employees at the downtown PO were refusing to rent boxes to new customers, presumably to show business there is waning.

Postal Service spokespersons have admitted they have considered closing the old Post Office and expanding the newer one to accommodate such a move, even while vehemently downplaying rumors as just that—rumors.

Out with the old, in with the new? Can you blame them?

The United States Postal Service owns about a third of its Post Offices. It rents the rest. As of 2015, the USPS owned about 9,460 post offices and leased another 25,944 properties or so, paying more than $800 million, annually, in rent.

USPS rents its space on Pearl from Lyle Lee McReynolds. Feds paid $156,400 in annual rent for the past five years for the 6,800-sf building on Pearl. That lease expired last summer and a USPS spokesperson said a new five-year lease was signed then for more than $200,000 per year. That works out to an increase from $23.01/sf to almost $30/sf for a commercial lease. It’s among the most expensive arrangements USPS has in the nation, including cities like San Francisco and New York, according to a check of its own databases.

But it’s not out of line for Jackson. In fact, a commercial lease advertised currently by Contour Investment Properties just one block from the downtown Post Office is advertised at $25/sf.

Now add the Post Office space in Wilson—also rented—which runs the USPS another $204,528 per year for 5,173 square feet. That’s $39.54/sf for a lease signed through May 2019.

All told, feds are paying well over half a million dollars a year for people to be able to collect their mail in Teton County—at PO’s in Jackson, Wilson, Kelly, Teton Village, Moose, and Moran. Is it any wonder the Postal Service loses more than $5 billion a year?

The newer Post Office on Maple Way is on a 4.35-acre parcel owned by the Postal Service. It may make more sense for the feds to add on to that facility in the future and phase out the expensive lease and duplication of services at the Pearl Street location. Until, that is, they get a look at construction costs in Jackson.

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