Claremont Post Office landscape withers

The Claremont Post Office is looking a little worse for the wear.  For some time now, the drought has taken its toll on the City of Trees. However, seeing nature’s crushing effect on a governmental building, seemingly exacerbated by lack of maintenance, has left some residents scratching their heads.

City Manager Tony Ramos said the distressed landscape across the street—which now showcases dead shrubbery and barren planters—has not gone unnoticed by city staff.

“We have been in constant communication with the regional director of the United States Post Office. We’ve even been in contact with our Congresswoman Judy Chu,” he said.

The city has asked the US Postal Service to submit plans for sprucing up the Village corner for several months now. The USPS response so far has been that they are “trying to get to it but that they’ve been very busy,” he said.

“It’s federal property, so the city cannot landscape or allow city staff to provide maintenance,” Mr. Ramos said.

If city staff isn’t permitted to clean it up, what about our local post office employees?

“I have no idea,” Mr. Ramos said. “I don’t know what their employment agreements say.”

In a town like Claremont, it seems like a simple fix—perhaps a weekend project for a girl scout troop or an enterprise to be taken on by energetic volunteers at Sustainable Claremont.

Sue Schenk, board member of Sustainable Claremont, believes that given the small size of the property on the corner of Harvard and Second Street, club members could tackle the project with ease.

“They just let it die, basically, and haven’t done anything,” Ms. Schenk said. “The city and Sustainable Claremont have been working together with the Green Crew on several project this year. I’m sure that if the plants were provided, it could be done as a work project if we had the authority to do it.”

Claremont resident and contractor Bernard Karmatz has been puzzled by the condition of the landscaping for some time. He and some residents have been trying to draw attention to the conditions of the post office grounds for more than a year and half. Finally, he’s seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

“A number of [contractors] had a meeting a week or so ago on a Monday morning [with USPS representatives] and met with three or four contractors to review a statement of work,” Mr. Karmatz explained.

Warren Davis, the regional director of the postal service, asked the contractors to attend last week’s tour. No landscape designers were asked to submit bids. Mr. Davis did not respond to multiple voice mails left by the COURIER this week.

A statement of work, which specifies details of a project and what is expected from contractors, is typically the first step in the request for bid process by a governmental agency.

 “I understand they have certain steps they have to take and they have to be mindful of how they allocate funds, but it’s been a long time,” Mr. Karmatz said.

Some expectations in the statement of work by the USPS included removal of shrubbery, grading, changing irrigation, replacing plants in front of the post office and taking plants out along the ramp and parkway.

Mr. Karmatz noted that although there was a general outline of what needed to be done, it wasn’t very specific in terms of a plant palette or overall budget for the project.

Mr. Ramos said city staff hopes to see drought-tolerant landscaping installed in the near future. As of Wednesday, the USPS had received one bid for the landscaping work and, according to city staff, the postal service is waiting on two more. Bids, which should include design and physical landscape work, are due today, Friday, December 23.

“We are waiting for them to submit plans on what they are going to do to make it look like city hall,” he said.

In the meantime, the city says it has been patient with the post office, but the accommodation can only last so long.

“We can impose code enforcement on them like anyone else,” Mr. Ramos said. “I’m giving them some time and if after the first of the year they fail to submit plans, we’ll look at alternatives.”

—Kathryn Dunn


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