Lance Cpl. Deon Scott, postal clerk, sorts through magazines and catalogs before placing them in mailboxes in the new Camp Foster Post Office.

Lance Cpl. Deon Scott, postal clerk, sorts through magazines and catalogs before placing them in mailboxes in the new Camp Foster Post Office. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The new post office on Camp Foster officially is to open its doors Thursday morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Construction on the new building began in April 2003. It cost $3.1 million and sits directly across a new parking lot from the old building, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Clark, the Marine Corps base’s assistant postal officer.

The new facility is more user-friendly than the old building, Clark said, and has bigger postal boxes.

“The larger boxes can fit all magazines and catalogs,” he said. Before, magazines were rolled to fit in boxes and customers were given package notification slips and would have to wait in line at the parcel pick-up window to receive bulky catalogs.

The bigger postal boxes also free clerks to help in other areas, Clark said. When the post office received a large shipment of catalogs, such as from J.C. Penney, he said, two clerks would spend one complete day writing out notifications and stamping the catalogs as being received. Now, he said, “pitching” the catalogs into customers’ delivery bins takes about two hours.

“It’s less time in line for the customer and less man-hours for us,” Clark said.

Almost all current postal box-holders kept the same box number, he said. The new building has 2,624 boxes — several hundred less than the old one — so some customers were given new box numbers. All customers received new combinations for the locks on their boxes. Clark said the new locks may be tricky so postal workers will be in the lobbies as long as needed to help customers operate them. Postal clerks can help customers who were deployed or on leave and didn’t receive their new combinations, Clark said.

The new building also has a state-of-the-art security system, according to Gunnery Sgt. Robert Morse, postal finance officer. Thirty cameras and motion detectors record and save footage for 30 days. Cameras cover every inch of the facility — even the loading dock. The only areas not under their watchful eyes are the restrooms and showers.

Morse said the system protects both customers and employees by allowing postal officials to watch for anyone trying to tamper with or steal mail.

Other improvements include a mail-call window in the rear of the building for units to pick up their mail, a break room for employees, seven customer service windows on the finance side of the post office instead of the five in the old building and a soon-to-be-installed conveyor belt to process outgoing mail. Automatic sliding doors are another new feature customers might appreciate, Clark said.

The old post office, built in 1953, was outgrown five to 10 years ago, he said. The building is to be demolished, Clark said, to make way for a new parking lot, which should be completed in early 2005.

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