Contract extension and hope for the Big Sky Post Office
Three weeks before postal service deadline, Malinowski of Gallatin Partners extends contract to May 31
By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
As the Big Sky Post Office neared its Feb. 28 termination after two decades of contract postal service provided by Gallatin Partners, President Al Malinowski shared encouraging news.
Since Oct. 5, the future of the Big Sky Post Office has been unclear as Gallatin Partners took an extreme measure—terminating their contract with five-month notice—to gain attention from the United States Postal Service and ultimately increase the postal resources available to the Big Sky community. In November, federal USPS representatives visited Big Sky which created optimism that they would gain an understanding of Big Sky’s recent growth and unmet needs. In the final weeks before Gallatin Partners planned to discontinue service, encouraging communication with USPS prompted Gallatin Partners to extend their current contract by three months, pushing a potential end date to May 31, 2023.
“Do you really want me to talk about the post office, or would you rather me talk about basketball?” Malinowski prefaced to the Big Sky Resort Area District board at their monthly meeting on Wednesday morning.
Met with laughter, the high school boys coach said that “both varsity teams took care of business” in Gardiner on Tuesday night. After the ice-breaking diversion, Malinowski said discussions with the USPS are progressing in a positive direction.
“What we hoped would have been done a couple years ago when we were urging for it, is now taking place,” Malinowski said. “So that’s a very positive step. [USPS] recognized—through the homework we’ve helped them with—that a long-term solution is necessary.”
Seeing the direct and desirable effort from USPS, Malinowski recognized that the Feb. 28 deadline might interfere with progress now taking place. During the BSRAD meeting, he predicted that Gallatin Partners would extend their contract in the next seven to 10 days. However, Malinowski executed the extension just hours later.
The extension is intended to allow for continued communication with USPS as they work toward a long-term solution. Whether USPS is willing to operate the new post office—which could provide certain benefits and resources—remains unclear.
Malinowski said he’s aware that USPS has started dialogue with the Kircher family about moving into their newly constructed building on Little Coyote Road, and USPS is researching other options in the community as well.
“Personally, the Kircher building makes a ton of sense,” Malinowski said. “It’s built, it’s ready for tentative improvements and it would be the quickest option. But that’s a decision USPS is going to have to evaluate and decide.”
Efforts to reach local developer Andrew Kircher by press time were unsuccessful.
Malinowski said that if USPS commits to occupying a new space in a defined time frame, Gallatin Partners would “work with [USPS] to fill that gap” if a second contract extension is needed.
“I’m very optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “It’s taken a while; our patience and maybe our persistence has paid off. Unfortunately, the conclusion is that the steps that were taken probably needed to be taken in order to get where we are today, but we’re headed in a positive direction.”
Malinowski added he’s been glad to share the news with his employees at the post office, as the service deadline threatened job security.
“The team at the post office has been outstanding because, let’s face it, it’s been stressful for them as well,” he said. “And I recognize that, so I’m glad that most of them have trusted this process that we’re working through, understood why this is so important to the community and are staying involved with us.”
Currently, the Gallatin Canyon portion of Big Sky is serviced by Gallatin Gateway’s post office. Board member Kevin Germain asked Malinowski whether there’s been any discussion of annexing that part of Big Sky into the same zip code.
“I’ve continued to bring that up as an issue that we should look at,” Malinowski said. “It’s ultimately their decision for whether they’re going to invest their effort into that.”
He plans to continue bringing the question up and is optimistic given the recent breakthroughs in communication with USPS.
“I don’t know [Gallatin Gateway’s] operation, but I would think with the growth that’s happening there, they’re going to be exceeding capacity soon if they’re not already. So why not look at solving both those issues in a collaborative manner,” Malinowski said.
Gallatin Gateway also operates as a contract postal unit, not federally operated by USPS.