Accessibility an issue for Jasper post office

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

JASPER — The Jasper Post Office building was built in 1937, and has not been altered since, which has caused some concern for patrons who may have a hard time climbing the concrete stairs to get inside.

Some of those with concerns have reached out to state legislators about the matter. However, it is not a state issue because the state does not own the building. The U.S. Postal Service does.

“Everyone understands how difficult it is,” said Mary Dando, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service in Indiana. “We want to reach out and offer our services to every customer. But our hands are tied as far as the building is concerned.”

She said the building itself cannot be altered because it is on a historic register for its architecture.

“The Jasper Post Office is on a national register for historic buildings,” she said, adding that installing ramps would negate the historic status.

The post office sits within the Jasper Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in June 2017. The district is roughly bounded by Ninth, Clay, Third and Mill streets.

The building, which is more than 80 years old, was in place before accessibility rules were in place.

“Because it was built prior to the passing of the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, it is grandfathered from any accessibility upgrades,” Dando said, “including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.”

The matter of accessibility was not as much of a problem when there was a contract post office located in the Ben Franklin store on U.S. 231 near Northwood Avenue. However, the store closed in late 2016.

“Everything worked well when the contract post office was in the Ben Franklin, because anyone could get in and out there,” Dando said. “But no one stepped up after Ben Franklin closed.”

The U.S. Postal Service had a moratorium on obtaining new contract post offices. The moratorium started in mid-2017 and stayed in effect through 2018. Dando said she wasn’t sure if that has been extended or not. But having a contract post office like the one that was in Ben Franklin would solve the accessibility problem.

“It would be wonderful if somebody else would want to put in a contract postal unit,” Dando said, “because that would offer alternative access.”

Opening a second post office in Jasper would likely not be approved because of the customer base here, Dando said.

“Considering something like that would depend on the population,” she said, “and number of addresses and the number of zip codes the post office serves.”

As far as accommodating customers who cannot mount the steps, Dando suggested contacting the post office for assistance.

“If the customer can call the post office, or have a family member go inside and notify a worker, someone can come down the stairs and assist. We have a mobile unit that can be used,” she said.

The post office does have a ramp in the back, but it is for getting main carts in and out of the post office, Dando said. “That’s not really for customers,” she said.

Post office workers will help in any way they can to serve customers and get them into the building.

“The post office will make some accommodations,” Dando said.

There are several post offices in Dubois County that are accessible, including the ones in Huntingburg and Ferdinand.

Any business interested in establishing a contract post office within the business can contact the Jasper Post Office or contact Dando at 1-317-870-8591 or mary.k.dando@usps.gov. A notice will soon be posted in the post office inviting businesses to apply, Dando said.




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com