Postal Service Will Discuss Princeton Post Office Move Tonight

The Palmer Square Post Office

United States Postal Service officials will present the agency’s plans for moving the downtown post office from Palmer Square to a different, smaller location in Princeton tonight at the Princeton Borough Council’s 7:30 meeting.

The nearly bankrupt Postal Service decided this fall to sell the post office property on Palmer Square as part of the agency’s attempts to cut costs. The building has not been put up for sale yet.

If the agency is successful in selling the property, a prime piece of real estate located at 20 Palmer Square East, the post office retail operation would be relocated to a much smaller location somewhere in Princeton that is yet to be determined.

The sale is part of the agency’s “optimization plan”  to cut costs and become more efficient. Palmer Square is a retail location now and is no longer used for carriers, who are  based out of another post office. The Palmer Square building, which has been open since 1934,  is 11,000 square feet, but less than 2,000 square feet is being used for the retail operation. The rest is not being used, a postal service spokesman said.

For 2011, the assessed value for the Postal Service property is $1.9 million, though the federal agency does not pay taxes on the property.

Earlier this year, Princeton carriers were shifted to the West Windsor post office at Carnegie Center as their home base. Some services residents previously could handle at the borough post office must now be taken care of at the West Windsor location, for example picking up mail when a hold has been place on it while a resident is away.

The Postal Service is selling buildings all over the country in an attempt to save money. The U.S. Postmaster General announced earlier this year that the agency would study selling or consolidating 252 of its 487 mail-processing centers as part of a plan to save as much as $3 billion annually. The postal service has decided to sell many post offices, including some listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and could decide to sell more.

Mail volume has declined by more than 43 billion pieces in the past 5 years and is continuing to decline. First-Class Mail has dropped 25 percent and single piece First-Class Mail — letters bearing postage stamps — has declined 36 percent in the same time frame, and nearly 50 percent in the past ten years. The decline has created substantial excess capacity within the postal processing network.

After five years in the red, the post office faces imminent default this month on a $5.5 billion annual payment to the U.S. Treasury for retiree health benefits, and it is projected to have a record loss of $14.1 billion next year amid steady declines in first-class mail volume. Postal Office officials say it must make cuts of $20 billion by 2015 in order to be profitable.