Kalaupapa Post Office Seeks Contractor

The Kalaupapa post office, one of four in Hawaii being considered for closure by the United States Postal Service (USPS), may remain unchanged until February 2012 – but its future after that remains cloudy.

Kalaupapa Department of Health (DOH) Administrator Mark Miller offered the estimated date at the settlement’s monthly community meeting last week. He based it on conversations with USPS’s Honolulu District Manager Daryl Ishizaki during an official visit to the settlement on Aug. 2.

USPS spokesman Duke Gonzales said “every option is still on the table” for future of the tiny office, which serves as a lifeline to the outside world for about 100 residents and employees at Kalaupapa National Historical Park (KNHP). That includes maintaining the status quo or closing the post office – or, as discussed at the community meeting, seeking an independent contractor negotiate an agreement with USPS.

Miller noted the burdens a contractor would face in taking over the facility, including becoming licensed, bonded and insured to deliver mail, as well as investing in materials like stamps, stamp machines and packing products. A contractor could operate the office wither either full or partial weekly hours. Although negotiable with USPS, he said it would cost about $12,000 in yearly wages to keep the post office open 10 hours a week – far less than the roughly 30 hours per week it currently operates.

Interested parties have until Dec. 13 deadline to negotiate a contract with USPS. If that deadline passes, the process will get kicked back to Washington D.C., where the USPS will solicit KNHP’s two governmental agencies, DOH and National Park Service (NPS.) A final decision will likely take place at least 60 days after the deadline, Miller said.

As of last week, Miller did not know of any contractors who had come forward, and Gonzales acknowledged “there’s not a big pool of potential partners to work with” in the settlement.

Miller said it is his wish that current post mistress Claire Cappelle continue to operate the post office, which is in a DOH-owned building symbolically rented by USPS for $1 a year.

The NPS is “not currently interested” in managing the post office because the DOH is mandated to take care of the needs of the patient community, said KNHP Superintendent Steve Prokop.

“In 15 or 20 years when there is no longer a patient community at Kalaupapa, DOH will depart and Kalaupapa National Historical Park will then be solely responsible for management of the post office if no contractor steps forward,” he said.

In identifying post offices for closure, Gonzales said USPS considered factors including customer utilization, revenue and proximity to alternate means of access to postal services.

“One of the biggest factors for us moving forward is to ensure that customers from offices on the study list are able to access postal services at alternate locations. We would not proceed with closing an office unless we could ensure that impacted customers have such access,” he said.


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