The future of the Auke Bay Post Office remains uncertain while the U.S. Postal Service continues to accept late bids from private contractors looking to run the branch.
Bids originally were due Feb. 15. The deadline was extended to Feb. 22 because the Postal Service did not receive any bids. Paul Larson, who oversees the bid process for the postal service, said he received one bid by last Friday's deadline and will accept late bids. Larson said he hopes to award the bid to a contractor by this Friday.
The future of the Auke Bay branch is in question because of a lease dispute between the post office and the owner of the Glacier Highway property housing the branch, Myron Klein.
Juneau Postmaster Kent Eriksen said Klein proposed a hike in rent from $105,000 to $200,000, prompting the post office to look to alternatives including relocating the branch, privatizing it, closing the facility, or keeping the branch as it is.
The Empire could not reach Klein for a comment. But in a letter, Klein said the post office was asked to pay $145,000 per year for a five-year lease or $135,000 a year for a 10-year lease, not $200,000.
"It seems to me the post office is exaggerating the amount of the rent increase I have sought in order to establish a new trend in Alaska, closing post offices due to higher operating costs compared to their other facilities in the United States," Klein said in the letter.
He said the rent hike is due to a 27 percent increase in operating costs for real estate taxes, insurance, heating oil, water, sewer, trash collection and maintenance in the 15 years since the current lease was signed.
If acceptable bids for private contractors come in, Eriksen said last week that the Postal Service may form a committee to evaluate the viability, in both cost and service, of having a contractor.
Eriksen said he hopes the branch will not close and that an equitable solution can be reached if a private contractor cannot be found.
Eriksen said he plans to meet today with one of Klein's representatives to discuss the issue.