TIETON -- The U.S. Postal Service has declined a civic improvement group’s proposal to replace the Tieton Post Office facade with a giant mosaic resembling a historic postage stamp.
But that doesn’t mean the Tieton Stamp Mosaic project — $1,970 shy of its $48,000 Kickstarter goal and holding — won’t happen.
Supporters of the plan to create “the coolest post office in America” say they’ll do what the USPS requires to replace the post office’s utilitarian facade with a mosaic of 41,500 hand-cut glass tiles.
At this point, that could be an appeal to Tom Samra, USPS vice president of facilities, according to Ernie Swanson, communications programs specialist with the U.S. Postal Service in Seattle.
Swanson sent an email Wednesday, saying a letter was delivered to the Mighty Tieton organization this week by the Postal Service declining the project.
“This so rarely happens that I don’t know,” Swanson said in a subsequent phone call. “I guess maybe the next step would be for the folks at Mighty Tieton to appeal to that vice president.”
That’s exactly what Ed Marquand, partner and founder of Mighty Tieton — an incubator for artisan and design-related light manufacturing businesses — says he’ll do. And Tieton Mayor Stanley R. Hall plans to call U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, about Congress pursuing the issue on the group’s behalf.
“I don’t have an email address for (Samra), but I’ll just call and get contact information for him and send an email basically saying we’ve got 12 days” for the Kickstarter campaign.
“If we hear from the Postal Service and they tell us they would like to see this happen, too, but we have to work through steps. We’ll complete the campaign,” Marquand said.
“If not, there are going to be many, many very frustrated and very disappointed people, and we know who’s to blame.”
Supporters have until 5:50 p.m. Aug. 3 to fund the campaign. Marquand posted a message on the Kickstarter page updating the situation Wednesday afternoon.
“I cannot in good conscience ask for more contributions for this project until they tell us what we need to do to make this project go,” Marquand wrote. “Please do not contribute anymore until you hear from me that I am confident we will be able to make this a win-win story for everyone.”
The letter from Samra declining the project was dated July 15 and delivered to Mighty Tieton on Monday.
“The Postal Service sincerely appreciates Mighty Tieton’s proposal to provide a new facade for the Tieton Post Office,” Swanson said in his initial email. “However, at this time USPS is not interested in pursuing the project.
“Agreements related to the sale or alteration of postal owned facilities must be handled by appropriate officials at the Postal Service. The local Postmaster did not have the authority to agree to any terms related to such a project.
“In general, the U.S. Postal Service does not accept gifts of art or sculpture for our facilities.”
Swanson said in his email that the USPS would have no further comments on the issue.
The Tieton Stamp Mosaic Project is part of the Tieton Mosaic Project, inspired by New York City’s historic subway signage. The public art project is overseen by Tieton Arts & Humanities, the nonprofit arm of Mighty Tieton.
Boosters see the project as a draw for tourists and a tribute to small-town post offices across America.
It’s also designed to celebrate this agricultural community of 1,200, the fruit grown in the region and the area’s natural beauty, supporters say.
In his call, Swanson said the project did not follow correct procedure.
“The procedure is that it has to be cleared by our facilities office and that was not done. And when it got to the attention of the vice president of facilities at headquarters, he vetoed the thing,” Swanson said.
However, Tieton Postmaster Cindy England discussed the project with a supervisor, and both thought it best to treat the facade project as a maintenance issue, Marquand said, “as if they were painting a coat of paint on the post office or replacing the wood slats” on the 1935 cement block building.
A local family donated the structure — the post office’s third home in Tieton — when its second USPS location became dilapidated, Marquand said.
“Everybody she spoke to said, ‘Cindy, this is your call,’” he said.
In the meantime, all project donations will be held in escrow and will be refunded if the project does not happen, Marquand said. But he’s optimistic and is happy to do what’s required to ensure that it does.
“Our goal is for this to be a win-win story for Tieton and the post office,” Marquand said. “That’s our goal and I’m determined to see that occur.”