By Sue Loughlin
TERRE HAUTE — Next summer, Indiana State University will assume ownership of the federal building at Seventh and Cherry streets.
The transition already is beginning as ISU prepares to operate a post office there, something now being done by the U.S. Postal Service.
ISU anticipates it could begin operating the contract postal center by November. The center will include retail and post office box services, and the workers there will be ISU employees. It will be open to the general public.
Many people and downtown businesses use the postal service center at the federal building. “ISU will maintain the same level of service customers are receiving now,” said Jim Jensen, ISU director of operational services with facilities management.
ISU and the postal service are working to ensure a smooth transition, he said. “The day the U.S. Postal Service operation ceases is the day we open,” Jensen said.
The Postal Service recently provided notices to customers who have post office boxes at the downtown site. Some of the information was inaccurate, Jensen said, and a new letter is being sent. The letter stated the U.S. Postal Service would suspend its operations there Oct. 3, but that date has been postponed, Jensen said.
A contract between the two parties is being revised, and specific dates for the changes are still being finalized, officials said.
ISU also plans to locate its campus mail service in the federal building, a move that could take place in the next few weeks, Jensen said.
The federal government is donating the federal building to ISU, and the facility eventually will become the university’s College of Business. U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh was instrumental in working out that agreement.
In its 2008-09 budget, ISU included $150,908 for the operation of the contract postal unit. That includes startup and personnel costs.
ISU and the post office have been working on the transition for quite a while, said Paul Reed, ISU director of custodial and special services.
“We’re going to be having the exact same services as the current post office with the exception of money orders,” Reed said. “We won’t do money orders.”
Once ISU begins the operation, window hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and lobby hours 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Saturday, lobby hours will be 7 a.m. to noon, Reed said.
Customers’ post office boxes will be in a new location on the west side of the building, although the existing ones will stay as is for aesthetic and historical purposes, Reed said.
He emphasized that few customers will have a change in their post office box numbers.
Sheri Hughes will be the ISU mail services manager at the new site.
ISU fielded some calls Tuesday because of miscommunication about when and how the changes will occur, Reed said.
A follow-up letter will provide clarification.
Once ISU’s operation is up and running, “We want the general public to know we’re here to serve the Terre Haute community, not just campus,” Reed said. “We look forward to a positive relationship with those who come to us for service.”
Al Eakle, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, said, “We want to make this transition as smooth as possible for our customers.”
The U.S. Postal Service currently owns the federal building.
ISU will have to renovate the building to accommodate the College of Business, which could involve two to three years of construction once it take possession of the building, said Bryan Duncan, ISU director of capital planning and improvement.
ISU officials didn’t have a specific figure on how much the renovation will cost, but it will involve millions of dollars and private fundraising will be necessary, said Diann McKee, acting vice president for business affairs.
Design work is still being finalized.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.