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Artistic Re-Do Of Small Town Post Office Nixed By Bureaucracy

Ed Marquand
Before and after look of the proposed Tieton, Washington, post office redecoration.

The U.S. Postal Service has nixed a privately-funded campaign to turn a small town post office in central Washington into a major artistic attraction.

The canceled project would've been "a crown jewel" in a thematic redevelopment of the sort other Northwest small towns have undertaken. The plan was to replace the plain, wooden façade of the Tieton post office with a 41,500-tile mosaic in a vintage postage stamp design.

The local postmaster endorsed the idea and a Kickstarter campaign to pay for it exceeded its goal of $48,000.

"The plug was pulled on it when we heard from U.S. Postal Service national headquarters," said project organizer Ed Marquand, who divides his time between businesses he owns in Seattle and Tieton.

"It would create such intense desire amongst many of the 34,000 post offices around the country,” Marquand said. “They aren't administratively equipped to even take one phone call dealing with these requests.”

In a certified letter to Marquand and in a subsequent phone call, the postal service's vice president of facilities Tom Samra explained that the Tieton postmaster did not have the authority to approve the mosaic tile façade.

"In general, the Postal Service does not accept gifts of art or sculpture for our facilities," Samra wrote. "The Postal Service sincerely appreciates your proposal to provide a new façade for the Tieton Post Office, but we regret to inform you that we are not interested in pursuing the project at this time."

Marquand said the news of the cancellation was greeted with an "outpouring of disappointment.” Despite the rejection stamp, Marquand said a few people continue to pledge toward the project at the Kickstarter website ahead of the preset end date of the crowdfunding campaign next Monday.

He said he contacted Kickstarter to make sure no one who made a commitment online has their pledge redeemed. Marquand said the remaining pledges will simply "evaporate" next week without any money changing hands.

Marquand said he's getting "lots of suggestions" for how else to continue the revitalization of Tieton, population 1,232. He said the mosaic theme will be carried out elsewhere, starting with a half dozen directional and welcome signs around town.

Marquand is one of the founders of a business incubator called Mighty Tieton, which spawned the mosaic studio as well as a press and bindery, laser cutting studio and other artisan businesses. It has also attracted a book warehouse, a cidery and goat cheese creamery to the orchard town about 15 miles northwest of Yakima.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.