Town not sure of ramifications after current lease expires in 2026
By Mark Reaman
While just a few weeks ago it appeared the town of Crested Butte was walking hand-in-hand with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to construct a new building to be used as a post office at Sixth Street and Gothic Avenue, this week council members are wondering if there will be mail delivery in the North Valley after February of 2026. That is when the lease on the current USPS building on Elk Avenue expires. Postal service officials this week introduced a major issue delaying any partnership with the town for a new building and long-term lease on the so-called Cosentino parcel across from Gothic Field.
In a memo to council on November 6, Community Development director Troy Russ informed the council that the USPS was suddenly and surprisingly walking back the partnership that had been evolving for months. He said the two entities had had several productive meetings since February and it was the intention of town staff to present a preferred development team contract and pre-construction agreement with the USPS at the November 6 council meeting. But on October 26 he said the USPS “informed town staff they were not authorized to enter into a preconstruction agreement for this project.”
Russ said that while the agency still was interested in the Cosentino parcel, further USPS correspondence indicated that a review process could take up to nine months.
“It was a tight timeline to start with, so this means we won’t make the February date,” said an admittedly frustrated Russ who hoped to have a completed post office building that included affordable housing when the current lease expired.
“Are we looking at no service for this end of the valley after their current lease expires?” asked mayor Ian Billick.
Town attorney Karl Hanlon said he was not aware of an instance where a landlord had ever kicked out the federal government as a tenant. “It feels like something changed internally for them but who knows,” Hanlon said. “The owner of the building can kick them out, but I’ve never heard of that happening. The postal service doesn’t seem worried. I think these large agencies tend to view the world differently than we would. It feels like there is no sense of urgency from them.”
Hanlon and Russ said another factor in the pullback might have been the real construction numbers that came in as part of an estimate. Design was estimated to be about $1 million in 2024 with construction in 2025 estimated to be $10 million. They said the USPS was basing long-term lease rates off of anticipated construction costs that were probably 50% below those actual numbers.
“Can we just get boxes at our houses now,” joked councilmember Beth Goldstone.
“That could be a solution but isn’t likely,” said Hanlon. “The lack of urgency and the complete 180 on their part has been very frustrating.”
“Have other communities lost service?” Billick asked.
“Not that I’m aware but I’ll have to take a broader look,” said Hanlon.
“It is clearly not our responsibility but if there is no mail delivery in the North Valley it will be our problem,” said Billick.
“At this point there is no reason for the town to do anything,” said Hanlon.
“We could take a bunch of risk and proceed forward with the design plan, but I would not advocate for that,” said Billick.
“You could, but no one on the staff would recommend that either,” said Hanlon.
“There’s nothing much we can do but wring our hands at this point,” concluded Billick.
An email from the CB News to two USPS representatives involved in the discussions did not receive a reply as of press time.