Post Office Splits Retail, Shipping Ops

Contributed by: Ann Hinch on 11/30/2006

December holidays bring gifts not only through the mail, but this year, also to the mail service in Lenoir City.

Weather permitting, employees of the United States Postal Service (USPS) on Broadway were planning to move carrier and sorting operations from the main facility to a bigger space off Adesa Boulevard beginning Dec. 1, and hoped to have it open Dec. 4 (as of press time). The old post office on Broadway will continue to serve customers' retail needs and house P.O. boxes.

Postmaster Jim Bishop said in the long run, moving bulk operations off-site shouldn't change when people can pick up their mail from P.O. boxes. "For the first couple of weeks, there might be some bugs to work out," he explained. "Maybe 30 minutes late."

The new carrier annex is located at 501 Adesa, Suite 240, in the Spring Cress Business Park. Bishop explained the three-bay, 7,000 square-foot facility will include a customer lobby on the end of the building facing State Highway 321, where people can pick up "held" mail and turn in delivery slips left at their homes and businesses for special-delivery packages.

USPS has signed a five-year lease with the building's owner, Tracy Roy, with a renewal option. Bishop said an Oak Ridge architect is working on plans for a 2007 renovation at the Broadway post office, a 5,000 square-foot historic building dating to 1936.

Such work would likely include replacing the tile, painting and re-working the steps out front. The parking lot is to be re-striped, and Bishop explained there will be more room because the vehicles that were there every morning for 18 carriers have moved across town.

Lenoir City officials have been trying for several years to get commitment from USPS for a new post office. Bishop is in favor of a single, bigger location and is working through his supervisors - District Manager Denny Unger and John Robertson, manager of post office operations for southeastern Tennessee - to lobby for it at the federal level.

City officials' last trip to Washington, D.C. in February wasn't promising, said Mayor Matt Brookshire; they were told many old post offices across the nation are in more dire need than Lenoir City.

"That does not mean that we have stopped making plans with this in any way," he added. The new plan is to set up another meeting with USPS officials in Atlanta in 2007, to make "one final pitch" for a new facility.

As for the new carrier annex, "It will help," Brookshire said. "There's no doubt." But he is disappointed USPS doesn't seem to be taking all factors into consideration - such as, this post office serves much of northern Loudon County.

"I think they look at the Lenoir City population of 8,000 and think (the Broadway facility) should be enough space," he said. "That's not the service population."

That number is closer to 30,000, including Tellico Village and county subdivisions. It has grown by three to five percent each year since Bishop began in 2001, and he said there are 3,000 homes under construction within a five-mile radius of the new carrier annex.

"Long-term, it's certainly not what the community's wanting," Loudon County Economic Development Director Pat Phillips said of splitting operations between two sites, adding someday, USPS will have to lease or build a larger single facility. "I think they're delaying the inevitable."

Customer hours at the post office are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday - at the carrier annex, they will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The annex phone number is 865-988-6130.