Sunday, September 25, 2016

Wall collapse during old city office demolition badly damages Arlington post office

Micheal Dwyer was in the Arlington Post Office when it happened.

Dwyer was getting his mail when he felt a whoosh of air come through the post office box.

“Then there seemed like a third-of-a-second delay and then you could feel the impact of the concussion,” Dwyer said.

His first guess was that an explosion had occurred. He ran to the door, then collected his thoughts and went back. Postal clerk Marg Mathiesen was inside. He helped her outside.

No explosion took place, but the post office was heavily damaged at about noon Friday in downtown Arlington.

The incident occurred when the former city office building next door was being torn down. The south wall of that building collapsed and crashed into the north wall of the post office, causing its wall to collapse.

Dwyer and Mathiesen were the only ones in the post office. The clerk, who was at the back of the building, had minor injuries and drove herself to seek medical attention, said Washington County Sheriff Mike Robinson.

“She was real lucky that she wasn’t injured more severely,” Robinson added.

Before he’d gone into the post office, Dwyer had watched Mark Grefe of Mike Grefe Excavating working to take down the old former city office building.

“He was being incredibly careful, almost surgical in the way that he was taking the building apart,” Dwyer said.

Grefe also said he was being careful, “doing what I know how to do best.”

“It’s very unfortunate, unforeseen,” Grefe noted.

Grefe said he was working on the opposite side of the building, pulling away from the post office, when the former city office building wall went the other direction.

Dwyer said a gas station, which had been closed for years at Second and Eagle streets, was demolished on Thursday. Work on the former city offices had started on Friday.

Melvin “Red” Misfeldt, a village board member, was disheartened by the scene.

Misfeldt said the village has been working for two years to get the buildings down to help beautify the city.

“And then to have something like this happen is just devastating,” he said.

Misfeldt figured the post office was totaled, a thought shared by the sheriff.

“I would imagine that the building will be condemned,” Robinson said.

Due to the damage, all operations at the Arlington Post Office will temporarily move to the Fremont Post Office at 348 E. 6th St., effective immediately and until further notice.

Postal customers can pick up their mail at the Fremont Post Office starting Sept. 24. Customers are reminded to bring photo identification when picking up their mail.

The Fremont Post Office is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. The phone number at the Fremont Post Office is 402-721-1913.

Rural route customers in the Arlington area will continue to receive mail delivery as usual. The blue collection box outside of the Arlington Post Office will continue to be picked up as scheduled.

“The safety of our employees and customers is paramount,” Post Office Operations Manager Wes Gronemyer said in a release. “So we evacuated the building until repairs are made and it’s safe to return. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our customers, and we will keep them updated on any changes and progress. We are committed to maintaining a retail presence in the Arlington area.”

In addition to the Fremont Post Office, alternate retail services for those in Arlington include:

Hy-Vee Contract Postal Unit in Fremont at 840 E. 23rd St., retail hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

Stamp booklets only may be purchased at the following Fremont locations: Baker’s, Casey’s General Stores, Staples, U.S. Bank, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Kennard Post Office, 204 Main St., retail hours are weekdays noon to 4 p.m., and 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

Customers can still buy stamps and ship packages through their rural carrier.