Lansing Post Office mired in uncertainty

Published 10:53 am Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lansing is still at risk of losing a staple to its identity.

Even though the Lansing Post Office could have a new owner after a tax forfeiture sale, the future of the building is still murky. Though the county board expressed willingness to help during Tuesday’s board meeting, the board is leery of getting too involved.

Dave Thompson bought the property at the sale, but it will take time for him to transfer ownership to his name. The current lease, which is held by the county, is set to expire July 1.

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Thompson, Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh and the Postal Service had arranged a deal for the county to renew the postal office’s lease for one year, with the county holding the lease until Thompson completed the ownership transfer.

However, County Attorney Kristen Nelsen said the lease contains some serious risks for the county, especially if Thompson’s deal goes awry.

“If anything falls apart, you are still going to remain the lease holder,” she said.

Nelsen, who noted she and the county have nothing against the Postal Service, warned of serious legal stipulations in the lease. The document states the lease holder is responsible for any repairs to damaged materials, like the air conditioning or any part of the building.

Another clause says the Postal Service could order the lease holder to rebuild the property, should the post office be destroyed in a fire or other event.

Nelsen said the lease is legally one-sided in favor of the U.S. Postal Service, especially when the Postal Service only pays about $3,000 in rent per year.

“Is this a bad lease for you to sign? Absolutely,” she said.

Groh, who was not at the meeting, told county commissioners they needed to enter into a one-year lease this week to hold the lease until Thompson could complete the purchase. Otherwise, the deal could fall through, and the Postal Service would consider closing the Lansing branch.

The board discussed renewing the lease with a stipulation that all risks and repairs fall on Thompson. But the board opted to table any decision until the June 14 board meeting, citing no reason a deal couldn’t be arranged that day.

Board Chairman Tim Gabrielson said the risk of retaining the lease is not a wise use of taxpayers’ money. If the deal fails, the risk and costs of operation fall on the county and the taxpayers.

Gabrielson said he hopes Thompson is successful in the transfer and keeping the post office open.

He said the Postal Service will need to work with Thompson on the project.

“I see no reason why they can’t,” he said.

Commissioner Jerry Reinartz agreed.

“They’ve got to work with him. … If he’s paid the contract, they’ve got to deal with him now,” Reinartz said.