By Jordan Wolfe
The post office in Wheeler has been closed for five months following the storms in December and, according to city manager Geoff Wullschlager, nobody knows when it will be operating again.
“The storms affected our post office in a way that caused water inundation. We knew the longer the water sat there, the worse the situation would become,” he said.
And sit there, it did.
Wullschlager said that the environmental factors, such as rot and black mold, has caused the building to be unsafe for USPS employees.
The responsibility, he added, ultimately falls on the owner of the building. She lives a state away and leases the building to the USPS.
Nobody who had legal access opened the building in a timely manner to allow any clean-up, he added.
“Why did the building sit for two weeks when it could have been cleaned within 24 to 48 hours?”
Stevie Stephens Burden, mayor of Wheeler, said her citizens now have to claim their mail as “General Delivery” from the front desk of Nehalem’s post office. They can only get their mail during operating hours: 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
“This has created a hardship on the community. A large segment of our population is retired and another portion doesn’t work near their home.”
Burden said that residents have had vital pieces of mail and time-sensitive documents sent back or unclaimed. Items such as retirement checks, mortgage statements, insurance information and children’s Christmas presents were returned to sender.
Communication has also been an issue for the city of Wheeler, according to both Burden and Wullschlager.
Burden said, “We have requested to meet with the Postal Service. We invited them to the city to talk, but we haven’t had much of a response.”
Wullschlager adds that the city has not heard from the postal service since February.
“We have not had communication that has assisted us to provide up-to-date information for our citizens,” he said.
“The city is limited with what we can do because we are not a party in this situation,” he said. “This is a private issue between two private businesses.”
Work began on the building, but has since been suspended indefinitely due to escalating costs, he added.
“It will now require an exorbitant amount of money to get the building working in a condition suitable for the post office,” Wullschlager said.
Peter Hass, spokesperson for the USPS said, “We apologize for the inconvenience Wheeler Post Office customers have experienced during the Post Office’s closure after flooding damaged the building. Because the Wheeler Post Office is in a leased facility, we are continuing to work with the owner of the building to ensure the necessary repairs are made and the building is deemed safe for our employees and customers. We thank our customers for their patience.”
Hass, however, provided no other information, and was fairly unaware of the situation. He added that there is no standard time frame to reopen when a facility is not owned by the USPS.
Burden said, “We’re only 400 people, but we deserve a response.”
The public is invited to a town hall meeting on May 17 at 5 p.m. in the Masonic Lodge to address the issue and options the city of Wheeler is pursuing.