Future of Keauhou Shopping Center post office in the air

  • Dug Miller stands by his USPS safe at the Keauhou Post Office Contract Station on Tuesday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

The contract holder for the Post Office in the Keauhou Shopping Center must vacate the space he has run since 2015 by Friday, and it’s unclear what services will be offered — if any — beyond then.

Dug Miller, who holds the contract to operate the USPS Contract Postal Unit, closed the front counter at the start of COVID because he felt it was unsafe to continue serving customers. However, he still serviced the 600 post office box holders and provided U.S. Postal Service Click-N-Ship services.

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Miller was in the process of working toward reopening on April 15, when he said he was informed the shopping center’s new management company would not negotiate a new lease.

The lease, signed in 2010 before Miller took over the Contract Postal Unit contract, expired at the end of 2020 and was extended on a month-to-month basis until Kamehameha Schools’ new property management company, Washington Prime Group and new leasing manager, Colliers International, took over in March.

“Then they told me I had to be out by March, so I got everything ready to go,” Miller explained.

But when the new property management company took over, Miller said he was informed a new lease might be negotiated.

“We were getting ready to reopen on the 15th of this month. We all got vaccinated. I got all new machinery and equipment to make the place safe,” Miller explained. “Then I got a call Thursday evening telling me ‘your contract ends you have to be out by Friday.’ They refuse to tell me why they are doing this. We are at a loss for words. We have been a moneymaker for USPS.”

Contract Postal Units (CPU) are supplier-owned or supplier-leased facilities operated by private vendors, under contract to the Postal Service to provide postal products and services to the public at U.S. Postal Service prices.

Duke Gonzales, strategic communications specialist at the U.S. Postal Service in Honolulu, confirmed Tuesday the contract for the Keauhou Post Office has been terminated.

“We were given a heads up late last week by the operator of the Keauhou CPU that his lease agreement with the Keauhou Shopping Center management would be coming to an end soon,” Gonzales said in an emailed response. “We were informed by shopping center management today that they will be terminating their lease with the current CPU operator at the end of this week.”

Gonzales said the USPS Hawaii management team is discussing long-term plans for serving the affected customers in Keauhou, including the possibility of soliciting new operators for a replacement CPU.

“In the meantime, we will be discussing with shopping center management a temporary option for ensuring uninterrupted mail delivery services to the CPU’s current PO Box customers,” he said.

Gonzales said the Postal Service has not yet developed an interim plan for future operations.

“That is a work in progress,” he said. “Until the current CPU operator’s lease agreement expires at the end of the week it will be staffed by the operator himself, not USPS employees.”

Gonzales could not comment on who would staff the location after Friday.

“Whether or not the space will be considered a CPU beyond the end of the week will depend on whether we are able to work out an interim plan with shopping center management.”

Gonzales also could not comment on what services would be available at the location, nor hours of operation.

“We have not yet determined our interim plan. That is a work in progress,” he said.

Keauhou Shopping Center General Manager Colene DeMello on Tuesday said its top priority is the community, tenants, and staff safety and well-being.

“Over the past year, we have been having active discussions with the tenant as the lease ended on Dec. 31, 2020. We have provided additional time for customer notification. We understand the PO Box service serves a critical function for the 1040 users, and it is our intention to work with the USPS to limit any disruptions,” she said.

Miller said he has not received any clear cut answers.

“All of my box holders are freaking out because I don’t know what to tell them,” said Miller.

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He remains skeptical of the shopping center’s commitment to keep the post office there.

“This post office has been here 40 years. Why would they get rid of such an important community service?” he pondered.