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Arnegard Post Office closure meeting gets off to slow start

Posted 9/28/11 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Arnegard area residents who felt strongly that the closing of their community’s post office will have a disastrous impact on their community and the delivery of their mail, patiently sat and waited last Wednesday morning to meet with postal service representatives.
They sat and waited. And then, they sat and waited some more. The minutes on the clock slowly ticking away as the 10 a.m. meeting starting time passed. Fifteen minutes passed and the postal authorities had not shown up.
A quick call to the Sioux Falls, S.D., post office asking the whereabouts of the missing postal authorities, found that the representatives were en route but didn’t have cell phone coverage.
Finally at 11 a.m., Sharon Prestangen, Arnegard postmaster, was able to tell the more than 70 citizens who had been cooling their heels for an hour, that through a mix-up, the U.S. Postal Service had the meeting scheduled for 3:30 p.m., even though all Arnegard residents had received a letter from the U.S.P.S. stating that the meeting was to be held at 10 a.m.
The snafu by the postal system just seemed to galvanize the citizen’s belief that the U.S.P.S. doesn’t take the need to keep their post office open seriously.
“Arnegard’s population has doubled in the last two years,” stated Niel Nelson, who has lived in Arnegard since 1982. “It could double again with all of the oil development. I don’t think that they were even looking at what is happening out here when they targeted this post office for closing.”
The Arnegard post office is one of 3,700 post offices nationally that has been targeted for closure in a money-saving effort to reduce its massive deficit. Four post offices in McKenzie County (Arnegard, Grassy Butte, Mandaree and Cartwright) have been placed on the possible closure list because of their lack of mail volume or that they are operating at a loss.
According to Prestangen, all of the Arnegard Post Office’s 156 mailboxes are full, with 20 people on a waiting list to have a mailbox.
“I don’t know how they can think about closing our post office,” stated Virginia Elliot, Arnegard’s mayor. “There are no empty post office mailboxes anywhere in the area. All of the boxes in Watford City, Alexander and Williston are full. The postal service simply has no clue what’s going on out here.”
While many Arnegard area residents are upset that the closing of their post office will inconvenience them and result in mail delivery delays, Cameron Arnegard contends that the U.S.P.S. is using incorrect data that resulted in the Arnegard office being placed on the “hit list.”
“The U.S.P.S. is using outdated and incorrect information,” states Arnegard. “The Arnegard Post Office has exceeded its goals, which were set by Bismarck, every year over the past 10 years and the office has never shown a loss.”
Likewise, Milt Hanson, owner of the Old School Bed & Breakfast and Uncle Milty’s Band Repair was upset not only with the postal service’s use of out-of-date data, but also the agency’s refusal to consider the impact that the oil development is having on northwestern North Dakota post offices.
“The meeting answered nothing,” stated Hanson. “The postal service people that were here apparently didn’t have the authority to give us any answers.”