When Kim Corbello makes her daily trip to the U.S. Post Office on East Dale Street in New Iberia, she knows what she is in for.
“It’s hot in here,” she said Tuesday, just before noon.
Two ceiling fans mounted behind the postal clerk counter fight to stir the dormant air in the building. A third fan, mounted on a stand near the side doorway to the sorting area, blows across the back of the line of clerks, a yellow plastic ribbon swirling wanly in the vortex.
And that is in the main customer area.
“I’m in here every day,” Corbello said. “It’s hot every day, except on the weekends.”
In the outer lobby, where customers check their mailboxes or address packages on a work table against the front wall. The South Louisiana air is stagnant, denying customers even the slight respite the struggling fans offer in the clerk lobby.
According to postal regulations, facilities are to maintain a minimum cooling temperature of 78 degrees during working hours and have no cooling during nonworking hours. There are no maximum temperature guidelines for cooling in the regulation.
The New Iberia branch encloses more than 23,000 square feet of space, with a portion of that isolated as a retail area.
Over the past 13 years, USPS facility energy use has decreased 33.1 percent. Use per square foot is also down 31 percent from 2003. But in the case of the Iberia branch, those efficiencies have come at a cost for customers — and employees, who have to work in temperatures climbing towards the 90s and beyond as summer kicks in.
Most of those gains have come in the last eight years. GridPoint Energy signed a contract for $28.7 million in 2010 to automate the energy use at more than 2,000 USPS locations. The New Iberia branch is one of the locations being managed through GridPoint’s smart grid energy management system.
The U.S. Postal Service has more than 32,000 buildings nationwide. In addition to the local post office branch, the organization operates facilities that provide mail processing, vehicle maintenance, data management and administrative offices.
The New Iberia facility has enough air conditioning horsepower to bring temperatures down, as evidenced in the four large compressors sitting idle at the rear of the building. Apparently, energy efficiency programs simply don’t allow them to run.
New Iberia Postmaster Linda LeBlanc was not able to speak on the record about the building and its cooling issues. Spokesman McKinney Boyd, however, said the issue had just come to his attention.
“We apologize for the unusual warm temperature at the New Iberia Post Office,” Boyd said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Postal facility engineers have been notified, and they will make every effort to lower the temperature at this office.”