LIHUE — After more than 100 coconuts and 500 letters, two community meetings and countless conversations with local, state and federal officials, the U.S. Postal Service announced it was closing the Rice Street post office.
“This decision is final,” said a Dec. 1, 2017 press release.
The Lihue post office on Rice Street will be staying put.
Duke Gonzales, spokesman for the United States Postal Service, confirmed the change in course on Wednesday.
“After a thorough review of our options, we decided it would be in the best interest of our customers and the postal service not to relocate our retail services from our Rice Street facility,” he said in a statement.
He declined to answer any more questions from TGI.
Just before noon on Wednesday, Louis Lopez was happy to hear the news as he was taking a break with his friend in front of the Rice Street location after picking up his mail.
“That’s good news,” he said. “I’m here every day, but I just got a box at the UPS Store.”
He’s been following the two-year saga, starting with the January 2017 United States Postal Service proposal to close the Rice Street location and reconsolidate operations at the Lihue Airport USPS Carrier Annex.
USPS representatives said the consolidation would help solve parking problems and access issues that have been ongoing for years at the Rice Street location.
The Lihue Business Association stepped into the fray after the proposal was confirmed and added their voice to community members who were already saying the location was important for convenience, as a center for community communication, and because of its status on the Hawaii State Register and the National Register of Historic places.
The current $13 million renovation of the Rice Street town core was also a big reason for the community to keep the Rice Street post office open.
USPS officials met with a packed house in community meetings on Feb. 23, 2017 and Oct. 11, 2017. They received comments and input from the community in those meetings, and also received 545 letters at their California office asking to keep the location open, as well as more than 100 coconuts carrying the same plea.
On Nov. 29, the Postal Service sent a final decision to then-Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. stating their decision was to shut down the location and consolidate services to the airport.
That decision was reversed in a letter to Mayor Derek Kawakami, dated Dec. 27, 2018 and received Jan. 4, 2019, according to the county.
That letter is also posted at the Rice Street location, and states: “Over the past year, the Postal Service has reexamined its situation, its discussions with the local stakeholders, and the comments and appeals received after public meetings.”
The letter continues, saying based in all of the input, the decision was withdrawn and the project to consolidate operations has been canceled.
Pat Griffin, president of Lihue Business Association, said she and the LBA deem the decision wise and are thrilled.
“It follows current urban planning concepts of providing services near where people live, work and play. It also supports the multi-million dollar grant — the TIGER — that the Federal Highway Administration awarded to Kauai to assist revitalization of our town core,” Griffin said.
She continued: “Our Hawaii members of congress worked hard for this outcome, as did Hawaii Senate President Kouchi, Governor David Ige, Mayor Kawakami, our previous Mayor Carvalho and the Kauai Planning Department, among several others.”
Kawakami thanked the work of his predecessor as well, and threw out a thank you to Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono for their work in keeping the location open.
In addition to keeping the “center for community communication” alive, Griffin said the proposed consolidation also led to a stronger relationship with those protecting U.S. historic places.
“In Kauai’s efforts to save the Lihue post office we were also fortunate to receive long-term and dedicated assistance from both the Historic Hawaii Foundation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation,” she said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to all of those who spoke out in favor of retaining our Lihue post office in its rightful place on Rice Street.”
Standing in line to send out a package, Kaili Asing said frequenting the Rice Street location is routine in his life. His face lit up when he heard his post office wasn’t going anywhere.
“OK! That’s great,” he said. “I have a box here. I’m here probably twice a day. They’ll still have to figure out something with parking, but that’s great.”
Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.