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Dunn Center post office future not sealed

DUNN CENTER -- Emotions ran high during a community meeting at Dunn Center City Hall Thursday afternoon as residents grilled U.S. Postal Service employees about suspending service at the city post office.

"It's like all the doors are slamming," said Cherri Lynch, a Dunn Center resident.

The post office closed indefinitely Saturday. A decision about reopening could take over a year to make and residents' hope is diminishing.

"I'm more mad now than I was before," resident Jolyn Wasem said after the meeting. "We didn't get any answers."

The post office was put on an emergency suspension Oct. 2 and residents could continue getting their mail there until Oct. 9.

It closed because of a lack of "available, qualified staff," to fill the office, Wanda Cleveland, manager of post office operations in the Dakota district, said during the meeting.

The employee who resigned, opening the position, was hired "off the street," but USPS regulations don't require them to do so, she added.

"We did it, but we're not going to do it again," Cleveland said, adding an existing USPS employee would have to take the position.

Residents Leo Piatz and Ruth Granfor said USPS should have told residents they were having an issue filling the position sooner.

"If you would have walked around town and said 'this is what's going to happen down the road,' we wouldn't be having this problem now," Leo Piatz said.

USPS knew of the resignation Sept. 15, Cleveland said.

"We tried to fill the position up until the Tuesday before it closed," Cleveland said. "There was a chance somebody was coming in, but they wouldn't take it."

USPS will consider placing a qualified employee there if someone showed interest, she added.

Resident Linda Kittilson asked if USPS would close larger post offices in similar situations.

"If we had no one to take the office, we would," Cleveland said.

The post office position in Manning is taking applications and nobody has applied there, she added. At least two other post offices in North Dakota are also closing, Cleveland said.

"I would just like to know why we should go through the expense of putting up mailboxes when we don't have a concrete answer on the position of the post office," Granfor said.

Residents can also rent a post office box in Killdeer, Cleveland said.

Resident Grant Brown worries the closure will affect Dunn Center's zip code.

"If we lose our zip code number, we lose our identity as a town," Brown said.

Cleveland said that wouldn't happen.

"Why are you closing down in a town that's growing, expanding and will continue to grow because of our oil impact?" Resident Maggie Piatz asked.

A former postmaster recorded the activity of the post office for two weeks, Taryce Olson, post office review coordinator said.

"She sold $5 worth of whatever for those 12 days, average, and she spent five minutes as far as our time, as to doing those transactions that she did for the six hours she was open over there," Olson said.

Maggie Piatz said the city has grown since then.

Questionnaires will be sent to effected residents in six weeks, Olson said.

"All of this goes into ... what is called a docket and this docket does go up to Washington D.C. and they are the final decision to if this place is closed for good or if it is opened back up," Olson said.

Rep. Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall and Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson attended and weighed in.

Onstad said Cleveland and Olson were "cold and calculated and kind of irrational," when responding to residents' questions.

USPS will not likely continue leasing the post office building. Residents pointed out that likely will make it difficult to reopen a post office in the city.

Olson and Cleveland said replacing a mail drop box and finding a place for lock boxes will be considered.

Those with questions regarding the closure can call the Killdeer Post Office at 701-764-5367.