January 22, 2020


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

How long should it take a letter or package to be delivered to its destination in western North Dakota? Should it take the two days that is the standard delivery time set by the United States Post Office? Or should it take five to six days or longer for mail to arrive at its destination?
Unfortunately, for many people in western North Dakota, the delivery of their mail is the latter. And that is a tragedy for people who rely on the U.S. Postal System for timely delivery of their mail, their newspapers, their medications or other packages.
While the Postal Service will be quick to point out that they are having trouble staffing their offices which is resulting in slower delivery times, the problem with the poor delivery in reality goes back to a fundamental change that was made several years ago. And that change was the closing of the sectional center in Minot.
Prior to the closing of that sectional center, all mail for western North Dakota, such as Williston, Watford City and all of the surrounding communities was sorted and then put on trucks to their final destination. The result was that everything that hit the Minot Sectional Center was in people’s post office boxes or delivered to their street address within two days.
But with the closing of the Minot Sectional Center, all mail that got to Minot was trucked to Bismarck where it was resorted and then trucked back to Minot before it could make its way to its final destination in western North Dakota.
It was a system that has completely failed with Bismarck now becoming a “sink hole” for mail where it just sits for days on end before it moves back to Minot.
While I can’t speak of how this delay impacts everyone, I can speak directly to how it impacts the delivery of our newspaper to our subscribers in McKenzie County, as well as elsewhere in western North Dakota.
Prior to the mess being created at the Bismarck Post Office, our newspaper, which is printed in Minot, was delivered to the Minot Post Office on Tuesday afternoon where it was sorted and sent out for distribution. That meant that virtually all of our subscribers received their newspaper Wednesday morning. And that included our subscribers in Bismarck.
Today, our newspaper is delivered to the Minot Post Office earlier than it was in the past to accommodate the loss of the Minot Sectional Center. It then leaves Minot on Tuesday to go to Bismarck where it disappears into that nebulous “sink hole.” When it arrives back to Minot and is then brought to western North Dakota post offices is a question that no one can seem to answer. But the end product is that the one-day delivery of our newspaper for our in-state subscribers has turned into four to five days. And no doubt, the delays are even longer for our out-of-state subscribers.
Without a doubt, the loss of a reliable mail delivery system is impacting us as a newspaper. We have subscribers, especially in the western part of the county, that are mad as hell. And they aren’t just mad about the delay in getting their newspaper. The poor delivery by the U.S. Postal System is affecting all of their mail.
To make the problem even worse is that postal authorities, who are responsible for this region, have not expressed a desire to correct this problem.
Western North Dakota deserves to have better mail service than what they are getting.