A day after a large fire destroyed the Winthrop post office, residents and businesspeople who relied on its services stopped by its counterpart in neighboring Manchester to see if their mail made it through the fire and to check what arrangements would be needed to receive it in the future.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Postal Service announced that those who had post office boxes at the Winthrop location now need to go to Manchester for the indefinite future.
“It’s a little inconvenient,” said Kevin McCarthy, vice president of the Copy Center in Winthrop, which regularly received checks from its customers at a post office box in Winthrop. “You’ve got money coming in.”
Austin Knight, a Winthrop man who was expecting a baseball cap celebrating the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl victory to arrive in the mail and now worried it was lost, was less guarded in his reaction to the fire.
“It sucks,” he said.
Knight said he contacted the seller of the hat, who agreed to send him a duplicate, but other Winthrop residents were less certain about the state of their mail.
Sondra Thibodeau of Winthrop was also expecting something to arrive soon, and she too worries it was lost in the Winthrop fire: a state income tax refund of around $600. She now plans to contact the state for an update on the status of that refund.
On Wednesday, a crew of workers from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service went to Winthrop to remove all mail from the burned out post office. But it’s unclear how much of it is salvageable.
Some of the mail seemed to be in fine condition, while other pieces were wet from the water that firefighters had sprayed into the building on Tuesday, said Emily Spera, one of the inspectors.
“All the mail that was there, we got it out of the building no matter what condition it was in,” she said.
Now, inspectors have turned over that salvaged mail to the Postal Service. It will be dried out and decisions will be made about what can be sent to customers and what is too damaged to be recovered, Spera continued.
Steve Doherty, a spokesman for the Postal Service, said he couldn’t provide a count of how much mail was at the Winthrop Post Office at the time of the fire “because it’s considered proprietary information.”
But in an email, Doherty did say that “several tubs and trays” full of mail were recovered and transported to a processing facility in Portland. That mail would be “cleaned and sifted through,” Doherty wrote. “Anything with a legible address or barcode will be delivered. This process will likely take a few days.”
Because the post office was a federal building, an investigator from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was at the site on Tuesday to try to establish what caused the fire, Winthrop Fire Chief Dan Brooks said on Tuesday.
But a spokesman for the federal agency did not respond to a request for comment, and Spera was not able to provide an update on the investigation. On Tuesday, Doherty said officials would be discussing the future of the Winthrop facility in the coming days.
Town officials are now working with Winthrop Postmaster Scott Allarie to get out any new information on the shuttered post office, said Sarah Fuller, chairwoman of the Town Council and a member of the Winthrop Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
“I know it’s a big issue for all people, both individuals and businesses that used the P.O. boxes of the downtown office,” said Fuller. “Hopefully it will get up and running soon. Having the Manchester post office is helpful, but not a permanent solution.”
Among the local businesses that may have been negatively affected by the post office fire are the accountants and attorneys who may have been sending and receiving tax documents this month, Fuller said.
Molly Morang, who works for Winthrop attorney Brian Condon Jr. and was picking up his mail in Manchester on Wednesday, was not greatly concerned about losing any incoming mail during the Tuesday fire. That’s because she was able to pick up mail in the lobby of the post office Tuesday morning before the office was open for business.
But Morang did put several outgoing documents in the mail on Monday, she said, and worries they may have been destroyed. She has been contacting the people to whom they were addressed to see if they had arrived.
Winthrop resident Mary Hinkley also stopped by the Manchester post office on Wednesday, so that she could request home delivery of the mail that used to get sent to her post office box in Winthrop.
It’ll be more convenient to receive her mail at home than to make regular trips to Manchester, she said, but she will miss the experience of stopping by the post office.
“I had a buddy there (at the post office),” she said. “We used to talk. I will miss socializing.”
Lou Carrier, a Winthrop resident and a co-owner of the downtown Winthrop Commerce Center, also worries about the inconvenience that will arise from the closure of the local post office. Now, he said, he has offered space in the Winthrop Commerce Center to the U.S. Postal Service as either a short- or long-term location for the post office.
“It’s going to be terribly cumbersome to the people of Winthrop if they have to use an out-of-town post office even temporarily,” he said.
Charles Eichacker — 621-5642