The U.S. Postal Service has hired a new contractor to finish the Westminster post office and plans to open the facility July 20 after months of delay.
The old contractor, Charles J. Frank of Hunt Valley, seemed unaware yesterday that he had been replaced. He did not know about next month's opening date until told of it by a reporter.
"It's about time, it's long overdue," he said of the scheduled opening.
The $2.7 million replacement building at Woodward and Hahn streets has been finished since October, Frank said. Postal officials declared it ready for occupancy in November, he said, but never took possession of the building.
Postal officials refused to discuss details of the delay until yesterday.
"We were in the process of negotiating with [Frank] and could not jeopardize those negotiations," said Terry Riley, manager of Capital Metro Facilities Service.
Warren Walker, manager of design and construction for the Postal Service, said Frank was sent a certified letter June 17 telling him 245 items remained incomplete.
Although the Postal Service has yet to receive a return receipt for that letter, Frank is "no longer on the job," said Walker. "We have been involved with the contractor for many months and he has not performed the job.
"In general, we were most concerned with public safety and security items which remained undone. The sprinkler system was not finalized and there was no hardware for exit purposes."
Biscayne Contractors Inc. of Forestville in Prince George's County began work on the building last week, Walker said.
Frank said he has built post offices in Severna Park and Havre de Grace without a problem, but described the Westminster project as "a circus." He said he has hired an attorney to help him obtain more than $179,000 owed him by the Postal Service.
The July 20 opening date in Westminster and a July 13 construction start for a Sykesville post office were announced yesterday by Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, who represents the district that includes Westminster.
"While the delays have been regrettable, we nevertheless now have a commitment from the Postal Service to break ground in Sykesville and unlock the doors in Westminster for new post offices and greater access for everyone," Bartlett said.
The Postal Service informed Bartlett of the dates after he wrote to the federal agency last week seeking information on the Carroll projects, he said.
The Westminster post office will move from its 70-year-old Main Street building July 18 and reopen for business July 20 at 8 a.m. at its new facility in Englar Business Park.
"The move should be seamless as far as customers are concerned because of the proximity of the buildings," said Riley.
The opening of the Westminster post office is expected to ease traffic, parking and crowding problems that have become increasingly troublesome at the Main Street site.
"I'm relieved that it's finally going to open. It's probably the most discussed project in Westminster," said Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster director of planning and public works. "There's a need for it, and I think the public and [post office] employees will be better served in the new building."
At Kelly's Stationery Store, across Woodward Road from the new post office, clerk Melissa Linton said she'll finally have an answer for the many customers who ask, "When is it going to open?" and "What's the holdup?"
The new 35,000-square-foot building should eliminate some of the inconveniences faced by postal customers at the Main Street facility. A lack of parking and long lines prompted Postmaster Kathleen Schultz to extend service hours two months ago.
"The parking access is going to be much better for people coming and going," Beyard said. "And there are other services that will be provided in the entrance area -- a store and lots of self-service-type things."
In Sykesville, the post office will be built on a 3-acre site at Progress Way and Route 32 in Eldersburg. Postal Service officials settled on the location last year after months of negotiations.
The existing Sykesville post office is considered overcrowded and inadequate to handle the volume of mail in the area of 28,000 residents. The new $3 million, 22,000-square-foot building will serve the 21784 ZIP code, including Sykesville and Eldersburg. It is expected to open in about a year.
Pub Date: 6/23/98