November 6, 2013

Growing to meet demand

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

A week and one day after the Watford City Post Office scheduled a meeting on Oct. 22 to discuss creating an advisory council, representatives from the United States Postal Service held another meeting on Oct. 30, in the lobby of the Watford City Post Office.
According to Angela Cole of the Facilities Department of the USPS in Denver, Colo., the two meetings were completely unrelated. She states that she was, in fact, unaware of the previous week’s meeting. The purpose for her meeting was to do something that she does not often get the chance to do.
Cole states that she was given a unique assignment, in that she was given permission to tell the people of Watford City that their post office is being remodeled for expansion.
“I typically go around and let people know that their post offices are closing or we are making their offices smaller,” states Cole. “This expansion project that has been assigned to us is one that specifically addresses the oil boom and the growth the area has been experiencing.”
Cole stresses that the expansion and remodel project will add an additional 1,800 square feet to the existing post office facility. The postal service hopes the added space in the back will help the Watford City Post Office deal with its continual problem of not having enough room to store and organize packages and mail.
Additionally, the postal service plans to add 2,000 post office boxes to the 2,400 the building already has, as well as install a self-service kiosk.
Future postal service plans for dealing with growth also include adding cluster boxes to new developments and developing in-town routes for those cluster boxes. There are no plans for in-town routes that include door-to-door delivery.
As Cole conducted the public meeting, she was met by both skepticism and frustration, from those in attendance.
The area residents who came to the meeting brought up concerns over the problems that still seem to be lingering in the customer service being provided by the local post office. The overall problem - no matter what the postal service does - it is still only as good as the local point of contact.
“This is your local point of contact,” stated one person at the meeting, referring to the local post office. “You are planning to increase the amount of post office boxes you offer to 4,400, but the town is projected to grow to at least 10,000. What numbers are directing your plans for expansion?”
Repeatedly, area postal customers told Cole that the projection numbers the postal service was using to guide their growth solutions seemed too small.
“The people that are working here are doing a good job and things have gotten a lot better. But there is a lot more that needs to be done,” stated another person at the meeting.
The overall complaint had less to do with the current post office staff, and more to do with the fact that the postal service leadership did not seem to understand that Watford City needs more help than they seem to realize.
“Watford City’s footprint is projected to be the same size as Williston. Our post office needs to be as big as Williston’s is, as of yesterday. You guys are at least three steps behind,” a local resident stated.
“I am sure you can understand where we are as an organization,” states Cole. “When I came on in 2005, we had 800,000 employees, and now we have 200,000 employees.”
At the meeting’s end, Cole addressed the concerns of area residents and stated that Wanda Cleveland, the district representative for Watford City, would send those concerns up the chain of command.
In the meantime, Cole stated that she is looking at this project as a high priority, and her goal is to get things done and to move on them while she has the approval to do so.