Post Office Studies Move for Expansion in Vineyard Haven

By JONATHAN BURKE

The Vineyard Haven post office is contemplating renovations to its Five Corners location and would like to relocate temporarily to the Tisbury park-and-ride lot.

Architect James Carlson told town selectmen on Dec. 10 that the Island's primary postal facility plans to increase its size by rearranging its own space and that of its tenants. Cumberland Farms and Muriel W. Laverty Real Estate currently rent space from the postal service.

"We are going to relocate to Ed Coogan's office. We're waiting to hear when," said Ms. Laverty. "Vineyard Haven needs the remodeled post office. It's going to work out beautifully."

Mr. Carlson, executive vice president of the Rhode Island-based architecture firm Robinson Green Berretta, told selectmen that if temporary facilities could be found, the renovations could begin in February and conclude in about four months. He proposed occupying one-half to one-third of the town park-and-ride, which is located off State Road on High Point Road, near the town landfill.

Trailers, Mr. Carlson said, would be used for temporary postal headquarters. Septage would be self-contained. Only electrical for "heating and cooling" would need to be brought in.

The selectmen did not offer Mr. Carlson much encouragement.

"If the earliest time you start is February or March, you're going to be up there through August," said chairman Ray LaPorte.

Christine Dugas, the postal service's public affairs representative for the project, acknowledged that the project could take as long as a year, but said the goal was to finish it during the winter.

"I'm sure they're hoping to have it done within the year," she said, meaning 2003. "It's very difficult, as you could imagine, to get any kind of timeline in the winter, because we could get a blizzard."

Selectmen raised other issues concerning use of the park-and-ride lot. Selectman Tom Pachico, who is also the board of health agent, noted that the the state Department of Environmental Protection would have to issue a permit for commercial use of the lot.

"If there is alternative space, I would encourage you to go find it," said Mr. LaPorte at the end of the Mr. Carlson's presentation. Mr. Pachico suggested that the post office consider other town-owned parcels.

Only selectman Tristan Israel offered real support to the post office. "I would like to see you have a permanent facility up there," he said, joking.

Although there is a draft blueprint for the project, design details at this point in the process are hard to come by. Mr. Carlson was unwilling to speak outside of the meeting, but did say during the meeting that Cumberland Farms would probably take the place of the box lobby next to the fire station. The mailboxes in that lobby would join the rest of the mailboxes in the main facility.

The planned renovation would be extensive, Mr. Carlson said. The building would be gutted right down to the tile floor, which sits on top of an asbestos floor.

Ms. Dugas said the project had been in the works for about a year. Town officials were not informed until now, she said, because financial backing for the plan was uncertain.

The overriding objective is to create more space. "We need to have a larger workroom. We have a couple more rural routes," said Ms. Dugas.

The Vineyard Haven post office is the initial drop site for all incoming mail from off-Island. It handles 175,000 pieces of mail per week during the peak season and approximately 150,000 pieces per week during the winter. It has 1,345 delivery points and 3,300 mail boxes on site.

The first postmaster of Holmes Hole, as Vineyard Haven was then known, was appointed in 1795. At the time there were about 350 year-round residents. The post office relocated to Five Corners from Main and Church streets in 1979.