Residents still waiting for USPS answers on mail delivery woes

It’s taking longer than North Dakota residents would prefer for the U.S. Postal Service to provide answers on the problems plaguing mail delivery in much of the state. Not least of all in Grand Forks, where the Herald finds it’s going to take longer yet, partly due to increased pressure on postal officials from political leaders.

Almost three months after officials from the United States Postal Service held a public meeting about proposed changes in Grand Forks, the waiting game continues.

And that waiting game may continue for a while now that North Dakota’s congressional delegation has gotten the Postal Service’s inspector general to investigate Grand Forks’ mail operations and the facility review process. The initial facility review findings recommended moving some regional mail processing from Grand Forks to Fargo.

The botched meeting USPS officials held back in December focused on downsizing the Grand Forks mail processing center, more than on the snafus in mail delivery and service experienced by customers. Tone deaf postal officials refused to take questions from the public or representatives of elected officials. If anything, Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski viewed it as a big step backwards.

“We’ve tried to push back as much as we can… Sen. (John) Hoeven has been a big part of that getting that audit so that was great to see,” Bochenski said. “So now, we’re sitting back and letting that process play out and see where it lands. “

Yet the USPS effort to consolidate operations comes at a time when the post office faces unrelenting criticism over shoddy service and unreliable mail delivery. Public dissatisfaction runs high, particularly in rural areas where residents heavily rely on mail delivery for prescription drugs, financial and other transactions. That’s finally led postal officials to also undertake an examination of postal delivery problems statewide.

In addition to the review of the process, an audit of mail operations across the Minnesota-North Dakota District began in late January after persistent complaints of mail delays, protests by rural mail carriers, and significant mail delays in the Twin Cities. The audit has been expanded twice to include mail operations across North Dakota and its major cities.

“We’re going to see what (the Postal Service says) about what the postal service is telling us they’re going to do,” said [U.S. Sen. John] Hoeven. “So, whether it’s the community box units where it’s taken so long to get locks, whether it’s the processing for local mail and newspapers, whether it’s service issues like we’ve seen in rural areas … the post office is telling us they’re going to improve and make those improvements.”

USPS has provided no timetable for the completion of the facilities analysis of the Grand Forks and Bismarck processing centers. Meantime, North Dakota residents will have to wait until April to find out how USPS plans to fix the post office they can no longer rely upon.