November 18, 2014

Post Office is overwhelmed and understaffed leading into holidays

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

With the holidays fast approaching, the local Watford City Post Office is feeling the pressure of trying to adequately meet the needs of their customers with an insufficient amount of  staffing and an enormous amount of mail volume.
“The hardest part in getting employees here is the high cost of living,” said Nathan Declerck, officer in charge at the Watford City Post Office. “In addition to the high cost of living being a deterrent for potential employees, the mail volume is compounded on top of that. This community is just growing so fast.”
With the community growing at such a rapid pace, there are new residential developments popping up everywhere and the post office is doing its best to keep up with developing new mail routes to serve those residents.
According to Declerck, there are approximately 2,500 stops on the mail delivery routes around the Watford City area at the present time. And a large number of those stops have multiple boxes, meaning there are about 3,000 customers being served just on the mail routes alone. That number doesn’t even include any of the new residential developments where residents there are seeking new mail routes for their mail delivery.
“We have definitely recognized this issue and we are in the process of working with our corporate office to establish new delivery routes to serve these new residents,” said Declerck. “Customers call on a daily basis wanting to know when there will be delivery, and I want to assure those customers that we are working on it as we speak.”
With the loss of several postal employees in recent weeks, Declerck said two new clerks would be starting the week of Nov. 17 and one new rural carrier would be added as well. He hopes this will boost delivery time, as well as the wait time at the front desk area.
“These new additions will definitely help in the handling of mail volume coming in and out of this location,” said Declerck.
At the local post office in Watford City, there are approximately 3,000 mail or post office boxes serving residents who are not on a mail delivery route. According to Declerck, the volume of mail in a single day averages around 6,000 letters, 4,000 newspapers and magazines, and 550 parcels. That is on a typical day. When newspapers and magazines come in bundles, there are days where that number escalates from 4,000 to 10,000 easily. And when the holidays are here, most all of those numbers double in volume.
Declerck has been in Watford City for three weeks, on a 90-day detail from his original office in Illinois, trying to combat the current issues the Watford City Post Office is facing. If the postal office situation improves, he could end up going back to his original office, or he could end up staying here even longer. Declerck has been with the Postal Service for eight years.
Currently, with the shortage of staff, shifts have become long and stressful. Some of the staff are working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., on a daily basis. Some of the clerks are working anywhere from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and carriers have been working from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Declerck finds himself working six days a week to try and get the staffing, mail volume, and routing problems resolved as best and as timely as he can.
Along with the extensive work schedules to try and meet the communities’ mail demands, once new employees are hired and trained, other issues will start to be resolved.
“We’ve got a great group of employees right now,” said Declerck. “They have been motivated to do what they need to do and to put in the hours they are, to try and help alleviate the current issues at hand, and I have to give a big hand to them for doing so.”
According to Declerck, their biggest goal right now is trying to get delivery service to those who do not have established routes and to get through the holidays.
“We are trying to do our best,” said Declerck. “And we are currently in the process of making those things happen.”