While the details of a land swap between the U.S. Postal Service and Town & Country Market caused a bit of grumbling, the deal’s bigger picture drew applause at a public meeting Tuesday.
“If it’s a choice of who will remain in the downtown core, I choose Town & Country, hands down,” said island resident Channie Peters, one of about 40 people to attend the postal service-sponsored meeting. “It really is the center of our community. It would be a huge loss.”
Peters’ comments elicited clapping from several people who support a proposed deal that would move the Winslow post office almost a mile north to a T&C-owned property on High School Road. With the half-acre post office property vacated, the neighboring market could rebuild or expand its existing building.
T&C owner Larry Nakata has for years considered moving the store to the much-larger High School Road property. Island business and government leaders have warned that such a move would greatly diminish downtown’s economic and social vitality.
According to Tom Haggar, a co-owner of the Winslow Virginia Mason clinic property, keeping T&C is “critical” for downtown’s smaller businesses.
“Hopefully, this (deal) will come to fruition,” he said.
To sweeten the deal, T&C has offered to pay for the new post office’s construction. With $780 million in lost revenue this year, the postal service quickly warmed to T&C’s proposal.
“In this day and age, the postal service doesn’t have the funding to build” many new facilities, said Winslow post office manager Steve Blakelsee. “T&C has agreed to build a new post office. It doesn’t cost us anything and we get the facility we want. T&C gets the property they need for their new store. It’s a win-win situation.”
But some residents say the deal is a loss for postal customers. The most frequent complaint was the loss of post office boxes in downtown.
Developer Bill Nelson urged the postal service to build a handful of small post offices on the island rather than a centralized facility. Postal service staff stressed that they haven’t got the money to establish and maintain several operations.
Other concerns expressed at the meeting included the loss of trees and an increase in auto traffic on High School Road.
While the land swap may cause headaches, some at the meeting urged critics to not get bogged down in the particulars of a generally positive deal.
“There’s the quote ‘Perfection is the enemy of the good,'” said Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce representative John Waldo. “That applies too frequently on Bainbridge.”
The postal service will consider public comments for 30 days before initiating final negotiations with T&C. Construction of the new post office could be completed in early 2010.