Posted 11/07/12 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
The fact that McKenzie County post offices are serving growing communities that are entrenched in a bustling oil boom should be proof enough that the United States Postal Service would be better off investing in the area, rather than making cuts. However, that is not the case.
In recent weeks, the postal service has announced it is considering shorter window hours for the post offices in Arnegard, Alexander, Cartwright and Mandaree, while the Watford City Post Office has maxed out its capacity in space and staff. All of this is causing long lines and longer wait times for mail and window service, making McKenzie County residents and businesses frustrated.
According to Dorothy Reil, an Alexander resident, Wanda Clark, a representative of the United States Postal Service held a meeting with Alexander residents in the Alexander Post Office last week.
Reil states that around 25 Alexander residents attended the meeting, where they were informed that the post office would move from being open the normal eight hours a day to only four.
“With four new rows of post office boxes having about 72 boxes in each row, I don’t think Alexander can move from its regular hours to only four,” states Reil. “But the other option was to close the Alexander Post Office and we could somehow go to Trenton to receive our mail.”
Reil believes that around 700 people now call Alexander their home, and the Alexander Post Office is having trouble getting all the mail out in eight hours, “so to cut hours is silly.”
While the United States Postal Service is not proposing to cut hours in Watford City, the city’s residents and businesses feel the same mix of emotions that Alexander, Cartwright, Arnegard and Mandaree residents feel because of the way the United States Postal Service seems to be handling McKenzie County.
“No one person or business has the time to stand in line for an hour or longer,” states Gretchen Stenehjem of First International Bank & Trust. “What is going on is concerning for our businesses and everyone else.”
Stenehjem states that the biggest impact to businesses is having to give up an employee for an hour at a time whenever packages need to be mailed or retrieved, or even when stamps need to be purchased.
Jean Homiston of Barrett Pharmacy & Variety, states that she does mail-outs on an almost daily basis for the pharmacy’s customers and she faces the same struggles.
“We send prescriptions to our customers who go south for the winter or live in the outlying areas,” states Homiston. “Sometimes our customers have to wait an extra day, so what is going on does affect them.”
Homiston states that her average wait time at the post office is around 35 minutes, with 25 minutes being her fastest.
“There is frustration shown by the people in line, but for the most part, people are trying to make the best of the situation,” states Homiston.
Though the issues facing post offices in McKenzie County are frustrating for residents and businesses, people do understand that staff at these post offices can only do so much and they are doing their best.
“The local post office has taken great strides to accommodate the crush of additional residents and businesses,” states Tim Melby, business manager for McKenzie Electric. “The post office is run by people and we are sympathetic to the demands that a growing community can put on our local post office.”
Melby states that he experienced a similar situation when he was living in California in the mid-90s, and the postal service’s reaction was quite different.
“The area I was living in started to boom, and the postal service started to build new post offices so they could handle the additional customers,” states Melby. “You wouldn’t believe the difference it made.”
Pete Nowacki, Media liaison, and Wanda Clark, of the United States Postal Service, were unavailable for comment.