Norwich — On the eve of today's planned meeting with Mayor Deberey Hinchey and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, U.S. Postal Service officials announced Tuesday that they have canceled plans to close the 340 Main St. post office "because it no longer is financially lucrative to proceed," a press release stated.
"When we re-examined the numbers, we learned that we would not be able to realize the projected savings, as construction costs had gone up since we first estimated the cost," the Postal Service's Connecticut Valley district manager, Dave Mastroianni, said in the release.
Mastroianni said the Postal Service contacted Courtney to inform him of the decision.
At a press conference to celebrate the decision Tuesday, Courtney and Hinchey said they were told on Friday afternoon of the Postal Service's decision and were asked not to announce the decision until Tuesday.
Courtney said the Postal Service did a fiscal analysis of the plan to close the Main Street building and move the post office to the distribution center on Route 82 near the Bozrah town line in advance of today's planned meeting. Courtney said Postal Service officials called Friday to say that today's meeting would not be necessary, because the decision had been reversed.
The Postal Service announced in February 2011 plans to close the Main Street building and move its retail post office to the distribution center on Salem Turnpike. Norwich officials have opposed the proposed move from the start, but the Postal Service announced in December it planned to move ahead with the plan.
The City Council voted Jan. 6 to appeal that decision, and Hinchey arranged to meet with officials.
Courtney said Tuesday it made no fiscal sense for the Postal Service to move the post office from the busy hub of downtown to the outskirts of the city inaccessible to many customers. Residents and downtown businesses need the post office on Main Street, he said.
"From day one in 2011, I have opposed closing the historic Norwich post office," Courtney said in the press release issued by the Postal Service, "because the people here need downtown access to the full range of services, from passports to bulk mailings to P.O. boxes. I am very pleased that the U.S. Postal Service listened to our case to keep the Norwich office open for business."
Hinchey said she was "thrilled" by the Postal Service's announcement and said the city's downtown revitalization efforts needed a post office as a crucial service to residents and businesses.
She also worried that another large, vacant building at the upper end of Main Street — across from the defunct YMCA and near the former Elks Club — would make it much more difficult to attract developers to the block. Hinchey said she started working on the issue right after the Nov. 4 election.
"We had to have this post office stay here," Hinchey said.
"I congratulate and thank Norwich area officials, including Mayor Hinchey and former Mayor (Peter) Nystrom, for their successful work on this issue," Courtney said.
But the Postal Service's announcement did not address the physical condition of the 1905 building. Postal officials had said the building was too large and too expensive to maintain.
Courtney said any building repairs or upgrades had been "put on the back burner" for the past three years as postal officials worked on plans to move out of the building. Now that the decision to stay there has been made, attention will have to be paid to the upkeep of the building, and possibly attracting other commercial tenants to help pay the bills.