December 30, 2013

Meeting the holiday rush

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

It has been one year since Roy Reynolds, district manager of the Dakota District of the United States Postal Service (USPS), was hosting town hall-style meetings all over the region. The meetings were held in impacted areas like Williston and Watford City in order to gain insight into how the oil boom was affecting customer service and what areas needed improving.
Since then, the Watford City Post Office has evolved from an entity that was struggling with employee turnover, poor first class mail service, extensive customer wait times in line and all-around customer dissatisfaction, to a facility that is better staffed and offering more timely customer service. Even through the holidays.
“We were given four extra employees about two weeks ago,” states Janeen Stenso, current officer in charge (OIC) of the Watford City Post Office. “If we had not had four extra people working here, our employees would have been here 24 hours a day.”
Stenso, who is originally from Page, N.D., has been the acting OIC for the Watford City Post Office since August 2013. According to her, between Dec. 14 and Dec. 24, the Watford City Post Office received 6,180 packages. And 2,000 of that number came in on Dec. 23.
“Because we had the extra employees, and they were already trained for the counter, we were able to have two people at the window, which allowed us to better serve the people here,” states Stenso.
Pete Nowacki, Public Information specialist for the USPS states that people from other post offices have been signing up to work in Watford City to help improve the situation in the city’s post office.
“This is a challenge,” states Nowacki. “And the people who are volunteering to work in Watford City view it as an opportunity to do something good for an organization that has been good to them.”
“There is a learning curve because they do not have the local knowledge. But they know the post office, so it is not like starting from square one like with a new hire,” states Nowacki.
And Stenso agrees. She states that the extra workers the Watford City Post Office has received have enjoyed their time in Watford City.
“The pace is fast and their enthusiasm is high,” states Stenso. “Everyone here has gone above and beyond.”
“We have a unique set of issues in this area that you will not find in other post offices,” states Stenso. “When you are dealing with people who are living in the area temporarily and who do not really have an address or know where to have their packages sent, we understand that it can be difficult.”
In addition to sending extra employees to help with the holiday rush, the USPS gave the Watford City Post Office approval to again be open over the noon hour.
“One of the things we have been working on is a better process for parcel pick up,” states Nowacki. “Staying open during the lunch hour has helped, as has adding parcel lockers and keeping the window better staffed.”
Another improvement that has helped Watford City area residents receive better mail service is the fact that the Cash Wise Contract Postal Unit is up and running.
“A Contract Postal Unit is essentially a post office that is located within a retail establishment,” states Nowacki. “They offer most of the services of a regular post office, but not everything.”
Stenso states that getting the Cash Wise CPU ready took a while, but now that it is open, postal customers will have more options for getting their needs met, especially since the Cash Wise CPU is open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., while the Watford City Post Office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Postal Service has also established a Community Advisory Council to better serve the community. The council had an informal meeting in October and will have its first official meeting in January. According to Stenso, five people have been nominated to the council from Arnegard, Alexander and Watford City.
The Community Advisory Council will help the postal service gain input from the community, as well as deal with issues that affect the community, such as 911 addressing.
Finally, Nowacki states that the postal service is in the middle of a 30-day public input process regarding the proposed expansion of the current Watford City Post Office facility. Until that 30-day period is completed, Nowacki states that there is no new information to report.
Nowacki states that the USPS is committed to providing the kind of infrastructure that will meet community needs now and well into the future.