U.S. Sen. John Hoeven spent part of Friday discussing postal service issues during a meeting in Bismarck. It couldn’t come at a better time since some post offices in North Dakota have struggled with service issues in recent months.
The Post Office in Mountain, N.D., has been closed because of safety concerns. That news came last week after it was “assessed for identified deficiencies.” During the down time, postal customers in that small town will have to get their mail in Cavalier, N.D., which is 17 miles away.
Also last week, the post office in Michigan, N.D., was reopened after being closed for several weeks due to issues with air quality. Customers there had to drive six miles to Petersburg to use the post office while tests and renovations were completed.
Late last year, the U.S. Postal Service said it was investigating irregularities in mail service in Dickinson. The investigation came after residents voiced concerns about postal service, with some saying they had gone days without delivery of their newspaper or their weekly shopper. When the newspaper staff went to the post office, they found thousands of copies of the shopper and hundreds of copies of the newspaper in garbage bins behind the post office. It wasn’t just newspapers in the garbage, but also other addressed envelopes and general mail.
A release about Friday’s meeting from Hoeven’s office noted that the meeting was planned “after hearing concerns from residents in Bismarck, Minot and throughout western North Dakota.”
North Dakota’s problems aren’t unique. For instance, in Chicago last week, mounds of undelivered mail were found in the trash, according to a CBS affiliate there.
In Campbell, Calif., a meeting is planned after some residents have said they aren’t getting their mail delivered some days.
Hoeven’s meeting Friday was with United States Postal Service Acting Dakotas District Manager Marc Kersey, along with post office leaders from Bismarck and Fargo. Representatives from the newspaper industry – which relies heavily upon postal delivery – were in attendance, too.
President Trump in the past has openly considered privatizing the U.S. Postal Service, which probably would help ease many service issues but which also would come with higher prices and potential reductions in some services. Rural residents specifically could suffer.
More recently, a task force created by the president has proposed recommendations it believes could help stabilize the USPS, including cutting the ability for workers to bargain over compensation and creating a new pricing model that would separate deliveries into categories – basically essential mail and mail that appears to have a profit motive.
The reality is that the USPS is suffering from increasing costs but steadily declining revenues. The former is partially brought on by rising salaries and crippling benefits, while the latter is exacerbated by the increase of electronic correspondence.
Privatizing the USPS isn’t the solution, since we believe it would have a negative impact in rural areas. But we believe recent issues in North Dakota show that troubles continue to mount up for this essential public service, and any work made by the president or our congressional delegates to improve conditions is appreciated.