BISMARCK, N.D. — The U.S. Postal Service has embraced technology to improve service for western North Dakota’s growing population.
Technology improvements include Mobile Point of Sale devices at six locations and self-service kiosks. Other changes will include a new post office in Williston and higher wages to attract rural letter carriers.
“The growth in the area has a lot to do with it,” Postal Service spokesman Pete Nowacki told The Bismarck Tribune. “At the same time we have to look at what we do as a business. It’s in our best interest as well to make transactions as easy as possible.”
Nowacki said the Mobile Point of Sale devices are like modified iPhones with printers attached. Postal Service employees can come out from behind the counter and help customers who only need simple services.
“It gives our folks the opportunity to take simpler transactions out of the line,” reducing wait times, Nowacki said.
The devices can be used, for example, if people are there just to pick up a package or if they have pre-paid their postage and just need to drop a package off.
“I am encouraged by USPS’ decision to add new, smart technology to several locations in our state,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in a statement.
The Postal Service is adding self-service kiosks as well, giving patrons access to certain services 24 hours a day, like buying stamps or mailing small packages. Especially in the Bakken, Nowacki said, people are working long hours and may not have time to go to a post office. The kiosks will allow them to stop in before or after work.
A self-service kiosk was installed April 1 in Dickinson. A renovation there also added 760 new post office boxes.
Watford City’s kiosk was installed last week. The Mobile Points of Sale also were added in Bismarck, Dickinson, Fargo, Minot, Watford City and Williston last week.
In June, Williston will get a second post office, in the newly constructed, 5,800-square-foot Badlands Town Center. There will be three retail windows, 1,500 new post office boxes, parcel lockers and a self-service kiosk.
“We’re seeing tremendous need for just about everything here,” said Shawn Wenko, Williston Economic Development assistant director.
Wenko said residents were complaining about long lines and sporadic service. With more people living in town, there also was an intense demand on personnel trying to deliver the mail.
“It’s no secret that mail delivery and service standards need to be improved in North Dakota and this is a positive step,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. “Anything we can do to make the postal service work better for North Dakotans is a welcome development.”
Nowacki said low unemployment, $15 per hour restaurant jobs and added routes have made it difficult to get and keep employees.
To help fill the need for personnel at local post offices, union contracts were modified in Minot, Dickinson, Williston, Watford City and most of the small communities in western North Dakota to include pay increases and bonuses. The changes will be effective
“Since September 2013, we’ve added more than 900 deliveries to corporate housing and other new residential developments in Dickinson, Williston, Watford City and Tioga,” Nowacki said. “We are still looking, continuing to hire as the region grows.”
Other improvements include a contract postal unit at the Cash Wise store in Watford City and several hundred new boxes at the Ross Post Office.
“We are also looking for opportunities to add access to stamps and other postal products and services at other businesses in the region,” Nowacki said. “Let’s face it. Where there’s growth there’s opportunity for us.”