Bright orange barricades that have Langley residents in a huff were placed there for safety reasons, according to a post office official.
The federal agency is required to provide a safe working environment for its employees, and the three concrete barriers that showed up this week to block the back entrance on Third Street to the Langley Post Office, much to the chagrin of city residents, were installed for just that purpose.
“It’s strictly a safety measure,” said post office Supervisor Lisa Wood Thursday, after a post to a popular Facebook page gained support in the outcry of the loss of the through access.
For the hundreds of visitors in town for Langley Mystery Weekend Feb. 27-28, the barricades meant only a simple turnaround. For some in Langley, they were an eyesore and an example of poor planning. One unidentified person made a jest of the barriers, putting fake legs as if emerging from under the concrete block and a sign “Mr. Postmaster, tear down this wall!” near the impasse.
“That’s what we call a New Jersey barricade, in a derogatory way,” said Sharen Heath, a Langley resident and blogger for the I LOVE LANGLEY Facebook page.
“My reaction to what I see now is it’s a really stupid idea. I can’t emphasize enough how stupid it is, when you think of all the possible solutions there could be. … There are many other solutions to that. If you want to slow people down, put speed bumps in.”
Speed is an issue. Wood said the post office has observed cars zipping through the lot as fast as 30 mph. She has also heard complaints from people using the post office that the through traffic was a danger and a nuisance.
The access debate through the post office parking lot was resolved months ago between the City of Langley and the United States Postal Service. The city owns the property and building, leases it to a company that in turn subleases it to the postal service. Under a previous mayor, the city learned it did not have any authority to require the federal agency to keep that access open. Though city leadership has since changed, it’s position has not.
“Ultimately, it’s their property and they have the right to do what they want,” Langley Mayor Tim Callison said in a phone interview Thursday.
“What the post office effectively has done is rendered the lot into what was done before the Second Street work,” he added.
The access did not exist prior to work on Second Street in 2014. As work was finished on parts of the road between Anthes and Cascade avenues, the access to the post office lot from Second Street was closed. As a workaround, the city paid to create a ramp from Third Street to the post office lot, removing the curb that prevented cars from getting through. But the new ramp was never meant to create a throughway between Second and Third streets.
“That was never the purpose,” Wood said. “(Langley) only did that to allow us to get the mail trucks out.”
“It’s not a through street.”
Former Mayor Fred McCarthy and the city’s lawyer met with an attorney for the United States Postal Service in August 2015. In a letter sent to McCarthy from USPS Senior Litigation Counsel Michael Tita, he described an agreement that the city and postal service would evaluate a potential resolution in a gate across the Third Street access that would be accessible for emergency vehicles and closed between 5:30 a.m. and noon and from 3 to 7:30 p.m. It also stated that the post office would add signage in the parking lot to identify reserved, non-public spaces, and enter an interagency agreement for policing of the employee parking areas.
The hour restrictions are necessary, said Wood, because of mail deliveries during those time windows. Large trucks with mail arrive to and are taken from the facility.
Those terms were deemed unacceptable by the Langley City Council and mayor in September 2015. What exists now is a result of that disagreement, with the post office ensuring its workers and customers are safe by closing off the recently installed access. And the city can’t do much about it.
“It became apparent that they had the discretion to do what they wanted,” Callison said.