After nearly a year's delay, the new Westminster post office opened yesterday, promising shorter lines, quicker service and more than enough parking.
Postal employees, spit-polished in pressed shirts and ties, stood at the entrance to the building at 345 Woodward Road in Englar Business Park and greeted customers. Many patrons looked a little wide-eyed and lost as they walked into the $2.7 million facility.
That was understandable -- it is not the post office they once knew.
For starters, the new building has 64 parking spaces out front. The old Main Street post office had four, never enough to accommodate customers during peak hours.
"Getting in and out of the old post office was a big problem. This should solve all that," said Joe Fiore, a post office window clerk who welcomed visitors.
Once inside the 35,000-square-foot building, customers are introduced to the new era of postal business. Gone are the days of only counter service, where each customer would wait in line to buy a book of collector's stamps, mail a package or pick up a package.
Customers are encouraged to browse the facility's postal store. On one wall of the building, the store peddles flashy stamp booklets, boxes, envelopes, and Looney Tunes ties and baseball caps. The most popular item, postal employees said, is a set of 32-cent Bugs Bunny stamps, the post office's first sale yesterday morning.
"They pick up what kind of stamp they want and they're gone. They don't have to stand in line for full service," said Frank Everson, post office supervisor.
Fiore, who worked the cash register yesterday morning, said the new setup is more enjoyable than being behind a counter all day.
"Postal workers can be out helping customers," he said.
The new facility is three times the size of the Main Street building, where employees worked shoulder to shoulder in cramped quarters.
"Like sardines," Everson said.
The new post office is open from 7: 30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Access to stamp machines, mail slots, post office boxes and a copy machine is available 24 hours a day.
The U.S. Postal Service planned to open the facility last fall, but the opening was repeatedly delayed while the agency negotiated with the contractor to finish 245 incomplete items. The contractor, however, maintained that the building was finished. Last month, a new company was hired to complete the work.
One window at the Main Street post office will remain open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for limited service during the next 30 to 60 days.
Greater Westminster Development Corp. is reviewing proposals from businesses seeking to oper- ate the Main Street office on a contract basis as a satellite office.
Many people were not aware yesterday that the new post office had opened. At 3 p.m., about a dozen customers were queued up at the one window of the old office.
"I didn't know the new post office was open," said Dan Zukowski of Finksburg, who waited 15 minutes for service. "With lines like that, news should spread quickly."
For Zukowski, the new location will be more convenient because it is closer to the large shopping centers he frequents near Englar Business Park.
"I don't come into town that often. I go to Wal-Mart more," he said.
But some people at the new facility yesterday lamented the passing of the 70-year-old Main Street office.
"I'm partial to the old structure. I will miss the architecture," said Don H. West, a Westminster contractor who was checking his post office box yesterday morning.
But he will not miss the parking hassles and the lines.
"I guess it's progress," he said.
Pub Date: 7/21/98