January 16, 2013


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

People living in Watford City have become all too familiar with waiting in long lines. There have been lines to check out groceries and to buy gasoline. And there have been lines at convenience stores and waiting lines to get tables at area restaurants. With the huge increase in population that we have experienced, it has been hard for local retailers to hire the staff that they need to accommodate the increased number of customers. But the vast majority of retailers have made the adjustments that they have needed to make to serve their customers in a prompt and professional manner.
The one exception to the businesses that have reacted to the influx of all the new people in the community is the U.S. Postal Service. And to put it mildly, there is no longer “service” when it comes to the thousands of Watford City area residents who are required to make their daily trip to the local post office to buy stamps, have packages mailed or to pick up a package.
At one time in our not so distant past, a trip to the post office was a relatively quick and painless experience. A person could find a parking space either in front of the post office or in the city’s adjacent parking lot. You could dash in and pick up your mail or packages or buy some stamps.
But, as of late, for customers at the Watford City Post Office, the experience has almost become a living hell. It is not uncommon to wait in line for well over an hour to pick up a package that may or may not be ready for you when you finally get to the window. First class mail isn’t always delivered on a daily basis, which for businesses can result in disastrous consequences when a one-day turn-around in mail is required. And to top it all off, the floor of the Watford City Post Office is covered with junk mail and advertising circulars, empty coffee cups and assorted garbage. Hardly the appearance that the U.S. Postal Service should want.
For the past two years, not only have the residents of Watford City been expressing their concerns about the deteriorating postal service, but so have former postmasters and other local postal workers. They have asked the higher-ups in the postal system to hire more help to “get the mail out” and the authority to pay workers a higher salary to  be able to attract and retain employees. But even though the “higher-ups” acknowledged that the volume of mail at the Watford City Post Office was going through the roof, the “powers to be” in the Postal System continually turned a deaf ear to these pleas for help.
The current staff at the post office is performing a herculean effort as they try to handle the volume of mail that is pouring in on a daily basis and the community needs to be thankful for their dedicated work. Yes, they may be less than courteous at times but considering the lack of support that they are getting from their superiors it is a wonder that the mail gets out as well as it does.
The problems that the Postal Service are facing in Watford City aren’t insurmountable. Businesses throughout Watford City and the other oil patches have figured out how to meet the demands of their customers, and all it would take for the Postal System to fix the problems here is to think a little outside the box.
Here’s what they need to do to get the mail flowing and restore quality service to their customers.
No. 1 - Throw out their wage scale and old hiring standards. The Postal Service needs to either transfer in employees that can get the job done or hire people from the area. And then pay them a wage that is competitive with the market in this area. No, they don’t have to pay oilfield wages, but they do need to offer wages that will not only attract, but keep employees.
No. 2 - Hire enough people to adequately staff the window to meet the heavy demands and to ensure that their customers aren’t being subjected to long waiting lines. And then hire enough mail processing people to get the mail and the packages in the customer’s mailboxes.
No. 3. - Begin planning right now for a new building to meet the community’s needs. The Postal Service needs to come to the realization that the current post office building in Watford City is woefully inadequate to handle the mail demands of a community of 6,000 to 10,000 people that it is currently serving. And if the Postal Service isn’t going to consider implementing home delivery within the city limits, the problems of mail delivery are only going to get worse as the town’s population continues to swell.
The Postal System may be seeing massive reductions in mail service nationwide, but that is not what is happening in Watford City or any other oil patch community in North Dakota.
The people in the oil patch deserve much better service than what they have been getting from the U.S. Postal Service.