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Heitkamp: USPS relief on the way

Submitted Photo Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., left, meets with U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and USPS COO Megan Brennan on March 12 in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said Thursday that she’s encouraged by progress being made on U.S. Postal Service issue customers face in her state.

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Following a March 12 meeting with U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, the North Dakota Democrat said frustrated citizens can expect a number of improvements to be implemented soon. Heitkamp also met with Megan Brennan, the Postal Service’s director of operations.

“They said they would be making some almost immediate changes,” Heitkamp said. “We’re seeing the response in the form of some self-service kiosks. We need to make more changes to alleviate long lines and poor service, especially in the Oil Patch.”

After receiving a number of complaints to her office, Heitkamp announced in January the launch of a campaign called “Fix My Mail,” which was aimed at being a sounding board for USPS service and delivery problems. Heitkamp said, as of Thursday, more than 100 personal stories have been shared via the campaign, which is set up at her website.

USPS spokesperson John Friess said Thursday that the agency is aware of the challenges facing some offices in energy-impacted areas of western North Dakota.

“At the Dickinson Post Office, we have hired one carrier recently and two are in progress,” Friess said. “We are actively evaluating any facilities or regions that require additional personnel coverage. Some new details about our efforts to enhance USPS customer service should be online by April 15.”

On Jan. 10, Heitkamp presided over a town hall meeting in Dickinson to air concerns about USPS service, which has suffered in certain areas of North Dakota in recent years — especially since the ramping up of oil activity.

Soon after, the USPS announced plans for a “consumer advisory council” for the Dickinson area.  

“We certainly aren’t done, however, talking about rural delivery or workforce development,” Heitkamp said. “Those are the types of things we need to have in order to give us more permanency. This is an appropriate response, but we’re still working toward the overall improvement of the postal service in North Dakota. This is a start, but it’s not enough.”

The USPS will install self-serve kiosk machines in Dickinson, Watford City and Williston, according to Heitkamp’s office. Some USPS employees at locations in Bismarck, Dickinson, Fargo, Minot, Watford City and Williston will also be equipped with mobile “point of sale” devices, which will allow for customers in line to be serviced for certain transactions.

“We’re not sitting on our hands, hoping the service concerns fix themselves,” Friess said. “We’re evaluating the issues and identifying solutions to enhance the postal experience for our valued customers in the Bakken oilfield region.”

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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