Demolition of Healdsburg's burned out post office could begin as early as today, but it remains uncertain whether a new postal facility will rise from the ashes.
On Tuesday there was a glimmer of hope as the family that owns the downtown post office property said they want to have it continue there.
"It's the intention of the owners to rebuild and to have the Post Office back in there," said Doug Nelson of Bend, Ore., who is married to one of the three sisters who own the parcel.
But a U.S. Postal Service official said it's too early to say whether the post office will have a continued downtown presence.
"No final decision has been made. We're in the process of setting up a meeting with city officials to talk about the options," said USPS spokesman James Wigdel.
Two years ago, Healdsburg officials rallied to keep the post office downtown when the postal service threatened to close it and consolidate mail operations at the more-distant carrier annex.
But the Aug. 14 fire changed everything, especially since the postal service is losing billions of dollars annually and the trend is toward closing locations.
"I think this is a little more of an uphill battle than we had two years ago. It's one thing to have a facility that's already up and operating. It's another thing to lose the facility and be in a position to try and find something else," said Mayor Jim Wood.
City Councilwoman Lisa Wittke Schaffner also is worried. "I felt like we saved it and then it burned. Every time I drive by, I get a sick feeling in my stomach," she said.
The fire was of undetermined origin, but investigators ruled out arson.
City officials are keen to keep a downtown post office, which they see as good for local businesses. And residents say it is conveniently located in the heart of town, a meeting place to run into friends and acquaintances.
"It's very much in character with Healdsburg," said Robert Wilkie, a retiree who lives on Westside Road. "Healdsburg is a town where people live and work. It's not just a tourist town."
County supervisor-elect Mike McGuire, a Healdsburg resident and former mayor, said "there's been an outcry of support to maintain a storefront post office downtown."
He characterized it as "an economic development issue." Several hundred, and perhaps as many as 1,000 people a day would come to the downtown post office, and some might stop nearby for a cup of coffee, order business cards or make photocopies.
"It really helps downtown merchants," McGuire said, adding that there is no bigger issue at the moment in the town of 12,000 people than re-establishing a downtown post office.
For the foreseeable future, however, all mail operations are being conducted out of the Foss Creek Circle carrier annex about a half-mile away, next to the Highway 101 freeway.
The annex was built nine years ago to process the delivery of mail to residences and business in the Healdsburg area.
The downtown office, which has been at the same site on Center Street since 1969, was the only retail post office in town. It had 1,766 post office boxes and a staff that provided counter services, including stamp sales and package shipment.