LIHUE — The Rice Street post office will be closing its doors. The U.S. Postal Service made the announcement Friday, after it spent nearly a year considering the decision. They did not give a date of the closure.
“It’s a shame, but I can see why they’re doing it, especially with the parking,” said Karen Pavao, of Kalaheo, who stopped by the post office on Friday afternoon to drop off some mail. “It’s convenient right here, especially coming from Kalaheo. It’ll be a change for everyone having to go out to the airport.”
It’s that limited parking that has Carol Jameson, Lihue, in support of the move.
“I’ve been thinking they should open up some space at the airport for a while and wondering why they haven’t,” she said. “It’ll make it a lot easier in that way (for parking), but it is sad. I hope they do something with the building, it’s historic.”
Pavao said she’d like to see the building re-purposed as well, and if not, she thinks the space would be ideal for a park.
“They really should do something with the building, it’s been a part of this community for a long time,” she said. “People have been coming here for many years.”
Friday, USPS announced its decision to proceed with its proposal to relocate postal services from the Rice street location to the Carrier Annex near the Lihue Airport.
“This decision is final,” the release said.
“We are disappointed with the postal service’s decision to close the Lihue post office,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.
“We believe that it is premature and we will make sure that all the proper input and processes were considered and followed before a decision was made,” Carvalho said.
Kauai residents learned about the potential relocation of the Rice Street post office on Jan. 26, when a memo was posted at the location.
The idea was met with resistance, which pointed to the location’s convenience and to the 1939 building’s status on the Hawaii State Register and the National Register of Historic places as reasons for preserving the location.
Several community meetings were held and hundreds of comments were sent into the post office — by October 2017 the total was up to 545 letters and more than 100 coconuts from Kauai residents, stating their opinion.
Oppositions also came from elected officials, including Sens. Brian Schatz and Marie Hirono, and Gov. David Ige.
The current $13 million renovation of Rice Street was a big reason many Kauai residents didn’t want the post office moved, and in meetings several people pointed out the move works against the spirit of the project.
A letter dated Oct. 26 seeking signatures opposed to the closure of the Rice Street post office was being circulation by the group, “Save Our Lihue Post Office.”
It referred to the post office as “an integral component of town life.”
“Since 1939, it has lived in the heart of Lihue, in near proximity to Kauai’s government headquarters and at the crossroads of the island,” the letter states.
It goes on to say the post office “continues to serve as a gathering place today. Its P.O. boxes and retail operations also provide a valuable service to the thousands of people who spend their weekdays in the town core within a few walkable blocks of the facility.”
Kauai Visitors Bureau Executive Director Sue Kanoho said she was disappointed to hear of the relocation of the post office and suggested that other mainland companies work harder to consult with the community before making changes.
“The Lihue post office has been the cornerstone of our residential/business community and played heavily into our walkable community plan with the rebranding of Rice Street,” Kanoho said.
UPSA officials said economics are what drove it to make the decision relocate the retail facility with the Carrier Annex, a decision that was explained in the Oct. 11 community meeting hosted by Greg Shelton, of USPS.
USPS is operating at a $2 billion deficit as of last quarter, Shelton said, and the entity is looking at ways to consolidate and make their operations more efficient.
They targeted Kauai’s Rice Street and Carrier Annex locations as a place where that consolidation could happen.
“The relocation will allow the Lihue Post Office to consolidate its delivery and retail operations, which are currently split between the two facilities,” USPS said in the Friday release. “The Postal Service has determined that the relocation is the optimal solution to satisfy its need to improve operational efficiency and reduce the financial burdens facing the organization.”