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Mail for rural Williston stacks up after postal workers quit

WILLISTON — Mail carriers here will work today to catch up on a backlog of undelivered mail to rural Williston residents after four local U.S. Postal Service employees suddenly quit, a spokesman said Saturday.

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Williston carriers have been unable to complete full delivery of some routes in the past week, affecting a varying number of customers each day, said Postal Service spokesman Peter Nowacki. The Williston employees who resigned during the past 2½ weeks gave little or no notice, he said.

“When they leave, their knowledge of delivering mail and their particular routes goes with them,” Nowacki said. “We face the same hiring difficulties that every other business in the Oil Patch area is dealing with.”

Blaine Jorgenson, who farms in Williams County, said he started to wonder whether someone had stolen his mail when his mailbox was empty on consecutive days.

But after calling neighbors, Jorgenson learned he wasn’t alone.

“Nobody out here has had mail since Tuesday,” Jorgenson said.

Mail delivery in rapidly growing Bakken communities has been unreliable at times, prompting North Dakota’s congressional delegation to seek improvement from U.S. Postal Service leadership.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., is hosting Drew Aliperto, U.S. Postal Service vice president for area operations, in Williston on Monday. A roundtable meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at the Williams County Annex, 302 E. Broadway.

In addition to delivering today, the Postal Service has identified additional employees who will come to the area to assist within the next few days, Nowacki said.

“The current Williston employees are terrific,” Nowacki said. “They are working extremely hard and long hours, doing everything in their power to provide service to their customers.”

Customers have not been able to pick up their mail at the post office because staffing issues prevented the mail from being sorted for individual customers, he said.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe visited Williston in August and pledged to improve mail delivery.

Donahoe said in an interview during that visit that the Postal Service could potentially raise salaries for employees in the Bakken, but he didn’t think the Postal Service would be able to assist employees with housing.

Staff turnover is a challenge for many businesses in northwest North Dakota, largely due to high housing prices and competitive oilfield wages.