Elissa Yount: PO’d (Plenty Owed) at the P.O.

Remember that old song from the 50’s that went: “I put a letter in the mail box and sent it Special D. Bright and early next morning, it came right back to me.”

Well, that tune and those Norman Rockwell images could only have happened in the 50’s when Henderson had Post Master Rogers and a post office that stayed open for the benefit of the customers and businesses. The operational hours today are most inadequate. If I were still teaching, there would be very few days that I could even get to the post office for window service. The hours are 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. in the morning, then 12:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. In addition, Henderson’s post office is completely closed on Saturday. How is it that Oxford can have their post office open from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on Saturday? Even Kittrell, Middleburg, and Townsville have Saturday hours, and most of those open before 9:00 a.m. You can check out the hours at this site.

If this isn’t enough to stick in your craw, just take a look at the facility.

Henderson Post Office

Henderson Post Office

Henderson Post Office

Henderson Post Office

Henderson Post Office

Henderson Post Office

The parking and traffic patterns are dangerous, the building is shabby, and the lobby is often dirty and very uninviting. The garden club’s flowers are the only attractive thing about this facility.

Here’s the clincher:

According to the Vance County Tax Office, as of October 26, 2009, the taxes on the post office property have not been paid for 2008 or 2009. For the 905 South Garnett Street address, $22,811.54 in taxes is owed. That is right. Over $22,000 in taxes is due on this property. Why is the federal government not paying this property tax? Well, the federal government may be paying, but the local government may not be collecting.

Here is a little historical background. In October of 1966, the J.W. Jenkins family sold this property. The names of the corporations have changed over the years, but the owner of record has continued to be Ernest W. Miller. He leased the building to the US Post Office for an average of around $21,650 annually for 20 years. The government held an option for 30 years to purchase the property for $300,000.

There was a tax clause rider in the original lease that stated that the lessor (Miller) present the tax bills to the Government and the Government would then “pay as additional rent the net amount of taxes by check made payable to the lessor and the taxing authority issuing said tax bill. The lessor shall thereafter promptly endorse (sic) said check and deliver the same to said taxing authority.”

In June of 1981, there was a lease amendment that changed the maintenance rider, but did not change the original tax rider. The lease also shows that from 2007 to 2012, the annual rent paid by the government to Miller for the post office is to be $19,360, and from 2012 to 2017 the rent is to be $18,438.

There are many filings over the years in Ernest W. Miller’s name that show activity on this property. Here are a few of the latest:

According to documents at the Vance County Register of Deeds, on December 29, 2004, Ernest W. Miller and wife deeded the property to Henderson P.O., LLC. A Google search provides information on Ernest W. Miller. This address is the same address the Secretary of State has for Henderson P.O. LLC. So, it would appear he transferred the property to a limited liability corporation which he still manages.

On March 31, 2005 and August 25, 2006, according to public documents obtained at the Vance County Register of Deeds, the land was mortgaged along with a large tract in Lee County in two notes for a total of $650,000.

After digesting all this, what should we say to Mr. Miller and his Henderson Post Office Limited Liability Corporation?

First, pay the taxes you owe on this property. Then, continue to pay them on time in the future. It is unacceptable that over $22,000 is owed to our local governments by the owner of our post office, especially when the deed infers that you are paid this money as additional rent. (It is also unacceptable that our tax office has not gone after this money if the check is also made out to them, but that is another story.)

Next, maintain the building so that the people of Henderson will not be ashamed of their post office. This is a public building and should be maintained at the highest standards and with the best accessibility. The structure is deteriorating, the overhead vents are filthy, and public areas are most unattractive, dingy, and worn.

Third, don’t be surprised when the people of Henderson start communicating with the Postmaster General that the terms of the lease need close attention. It is, after all, our federal tax dollars that are paying for the lease. We can judge if we are getting our money’s worth, or if Henderson is getting the short end of the stick.