Holmes Beach residents and businesses face an uncertain future regarding services at the longtime post office on Gulf Drive.
The present contract postal unit is closing June 30 and a successor has not been named.
U.S. Postal Service communications program specialist Enola Rice said June 8 bids are still being accepted.
“We are currently reviewing the package of interested vendors for the Holmes Beach contract postal unit,” Rice said. “We expect to have a new vendor in place by the time the current contract expires.”
Details regarding the vendors is proprietary during the bidding and cannot be disclosed, Rice said.
The current contract expires July 1, but Rice would not comment on whether the contract could be issued so quickly.
The USPS has at least three confirmed applications.
Julie Quinlivan and Sally Woodward, who now operate the contract postal unit at the Lucky Shoppe in the S&S Plaza, 5354 Gulf Drive, notified USPS April 28 of their plans to retire.
Rebecca and Eric St. Jean, who have owned and operated Island Mail & More at 3230 E. Bay Drive for nearly four years, were recruited to fill the role by Mayor Bob Johnson. The St. Jeans confirmed they applied for the CPU.
“We have U.S. mail here but it’s a different relationship. We are an authorized shipper,” said Rebecca St. Jean. “We tried to get the contract but, because we have UPS and FedEx, USPS can’t give it to us.”
Contract post offices are not allowed to provide private mailboxes, third-party delivery services or competing services similar to those offered by USPS.
The stipulations have disqualified Mail & More.
St. Jean said they’ve received more than a dozen calls from customers wondering if they should move their post office boxes, St. Jean said.
“The clock is ticking,” she said. “July 1 is going to be here before we know it. We don’t want to have customers transfer the boxes here and then have to transfer it back. We’re in a pickle because, sure, we want the business.”
Customers who do transfer will pay $16 a month for a private post office box at Island Mail & More compared with $6 a month at the post office.
St. Jean said the charges reflect the difference between business pricing and pricing set by a government agency.
“Maybe they should be charging more,” she said.
A UPS Store owner in Bradenton also applied to run the Holmes Beach post office.
The UPS application stirred public sentiment. Holmes Beach is trying to protect its family-run businesses from franchise competitors with deeper pockets and less island flavor.
The city has a temporary moratorium in place against franchise businesses and city attorney Patricia Petruff is drafting an ordinance that, if adopted, would make the chain business ban permanent.
City officials received at least a half-dozen emails last week from residents encouraging the commission to keep at it.
Holmes Beach resident Mary Lechleidner wrote that she is upset about the UPS bid. She said Island Mail & More is capable of providing postal services in Holmes Beach.
“Our island cannot support two mail stores,” Lechleidner emailed the city June 5.
Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen said the moratorium prohibits “formula” businesses such as a UPS Store from opening on the island.
Peelen said the ban is a process fraught with pitfalls.
“We want an ordinance that will stand up in court,” Peelen stated in an email.
She previously said she thought the ban pertained only to restaurants.
In the meantime, Holmes Beach waits to see whether the USPS can deliver on its promise before the present contract ends.
USPS contract requirements
A contract postal unit is a supplier-owned or supplier-leased site operated by the supplier, under contract to the U.S. Postal Service to provide postal products and services at USPS prices.
Requirements include supplier’s space cannot be owned or leased by the U.S. Postal Service.
No surcharges can be added to postal products or services.
The CPU cannot be staffed by postal employees, sell competitive services, provide commercial mailbox services, third-party delivery services or any products or services similar to, or competitive with, delivery and parcel services offered by the Postal Service.
The CPU cannot be located in or directly connected to a room where intoxicating beverages are sold for consumption on the premises.