A former councilman and a handful of residents attended Monday night’s Howell City Council meeting to raise concerns about a potential relocation site being considered by the U.S. Postal Service.
The Post Office located on South Michigan Avenue has been in its current space since March of 1984 but has been deemed space deficient and overcrowded, due to the area’s current and projected parcel and delivery growth. Several alternatives were considered to resolve the problem but the final recommendation was for the Postal Service to construct a new building. The U.S. Postal Service is said to be examining several sites but the one causing concern amongst residents is property surrounding the Howell Area Fire Department’s main station.
Interim Howell City Manager Erv Suida told WHMI there appears to maybe be a little misinformation and confusion out there but everything is currently in the hands of the Postal Service. He says the Postal Service approached the City in July and indicated it had received federal approval to relocate the Post Office but didn’t have a site selected yet. Suida says the Postal Service held a public hearing at a council meeting, indicating it was interested in any opportunities and sites people might be aware of. He says the City later provided six sites that were in the city and could possibly meet their requirements, which included city-owned property just east of the main Howell fire station and another site in front of Medilodge, located west of the fire station. The potential site by the fire station is around seven acres but has some challenges including drainage and is located next to a residential area. Suida says the Postal Service has been looking at those and others over the past several months to determine what fits their needs. Once one or some are selected, he says they would be brought back to public forum at a council meeting and there would be another public comment period
The Postal Service is only in the exploration phase and Suida clarified it’s all on their part – the city has only responded to questions they have. At this point, he says there has been no discussion on sales of properties – it has all been about fact finding, research and diving into what area or property will satisfy the needs of the Postal Service. He says they have specifics needs they’re looking for and the City is just trying to answer those questions as best they can so the Postal Service can make a good, sound decision. Suida says if that site near the fire station were to be selected, then they would begin the process of developing a purchase-sellers agreement and refining costs but they’re not there yet and this is really just a fact finding phase to deem what is suitable. He says the bottom line is they’re just not anywhere near the point of a sale, the Postal Service just looking at sites.
The Post Office item was not on the agenda but during call to the public, residents from a nearby neighborhood presented signatures to Council of those opposed. Former Councilman Doug Heins sent a lengthy letter to Council alleging there hasn’t been proper legal public input and discussion on the sites, expressing disappointment that the City is considering the sale of property located next to the fire hall. He alleges the Postal Service legally needs to be more specific during public presentations about sites. The letter states the USPS has failed to follow federal rules regarding potential relocation in not identifying specific sites. Heins further alleges the fire hall property proposal is not in compliance with the City’s master plan and raises concerns about environmental impact and traffic patterns and buffers, as the site is located behind a residential area. He spoke during call to the public and requested the off-week council meeting packets be posted on the City website for transparency sake and that the public can viewed the same information as elected officials.
The letter can be viewed in the council meeting packet, which is posted on the City of Howell webpage. That link is provided. City Attorney Dennis Perkins indicated he would issue a future report to Council on the issues raised. (JM)