Postal Service now agrees it owns post office building in Rockland

By Stephen Betts | Jan 29, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts

Rockland — The U.S. Postal Service acknowledges it owns the post office building in Rockland, despite earlier denials by the independent federal agency.

The ownership of the building at 21 Limerock St. became an issue after the Postal Service's response to the Rockland Fire Department when it responded to a report of smoke in the building Dec. 20.

Rockland Fire Chief Christopher Whytock said when he entered the lobby, his throat burned from the extent of the smoke. The chief said he went to the service window and directed employees to evacuate, but they did not.

He said it took a discussion with the postmaster before the employees evacuated.

The issue turned out to be a boiler problem.

A spokesman for the Postal Service called the matter a "soot incident" and initially said it did not occur in the portion of the building leased by the Postal Service. The Postal Service had claimed that the building was owned by the U.S. General Services Administration.

After the Postal Service initially denied ownership, GSA spokesman Paul Hughes contacted the Courier-Gazette and said Jan. 24 that the GSA does not own the building.

And Jim Gamage, who rents space on the second floor of the building, said Jan. 23 he sends his rent checks to the U.S. Postal Service disbursement office.

The city of Rockland's assessment records list the property as owned by the United States of America with reference to the U.S. Post Office. The U.S. government bought the property in 1965 from William Glover, and the General Services Administration oversaw construction of the building.

On Tuesday, Jan. 29, Postal Service spokesman Stephen Doherty said with further research the building is owned by the Postal Service.

Doherty said a safety team was sent up during the past week to inspect the building. He said he expects someone will contact the fire chief.

Whytock said Jan. 29 that he has not heard from anyone from the Postal Service, but still hopes for a meeting. He said the building had deficiencies in life safety codes when he was there Dec. 20.

"The lack of basic smoke detection is clear. Fire doors that should be providing common areas with proper separation are also not correct by NFPA 101 standards. As far as the fire extinguishers are concerned, I saw one in the common hallway, and on the day of the initial call, [it] had a tag that showed the extinguisher was past its inspection," the chief said.

The chief said Jan. 29 he would still like to meet with the Postal Service and reach a mutual understanding in the event that the department has to respond again to the building. He said he understood the Postal Service may have privacy concerns regarding mail, but that he was confident that an agreement could be reached to protect that privacy and protect the safety of people and property.

The chief had earlier said he contacted a supervisor for the Postal Service at the regional offices in Portland following the Dec. 20 incident and "was told right up front that I had no authority to enforce codes in their building."

Comments (1)
Posted by: Don Dickinson | Jan 29, 2019 22:15

It's absurd that a building owned by the United States government doesn't follow the NFPA 101 Life and Safety recommendations. Chief Whytock did the right thing and the building should have been evacuated immediately.

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