Returned mail nets call for return of Minot processing

Ward County calls for return of Minot mail processing

Jill Schramm/MDN A stack of letters returned to the Ward County Auditor’s Office carry stickers denoting them as undeliverable.

Wayward, returned and delayed mail have become a vexing problem for Ward County.

“It’s ridiculous what we are putting up with here,” County Commissioner Alan Walter told Minot’s local government liaison committee last week. He said he plans to visit with North Dakota’s congressional delegation during an upcoming trip to Washington about restoring mail processing in Minot that had been eliminated in 2015.

“I am looking to get the community rallied behind this and get support for it,” Walter said. “We are really getting short-changed in this community.”

The postal service reports only a portion of Minot’s mail processing was moved to Bismarck in 2015. Minot retains processing of letters and parcels destined to zip codes beginning with 587 and 588.

“We process mail in the format that proves greatest efficiency,” postal spokesperson Marcela Rivera said in an email. “Please be assured that the U.S. Postal Service is committed to preserving the role of the Postal Service in every American community, by providing a framework to achieve significant cost savings as part of our plan to return the organization to financial stability.

“Delivery performance in Minot remains strong,” she added, “and we are not aware of any systemic delivery issues from Minot residents. However we encourage anyone with concerns to utilize the 1-800-ASK-USPS or visit usps.com. Their concerns will be recorded and addressed.”

The Ward County Auditor’s Office brought 13 returned letters, received over a couple of days in late March, to the city-county-parks-school liaison meeting. The letters included those mailed by the office in 2017 and 2018 that now were being returned despite correct addresses.

“My biggest concern is, ‘Where have they been sitting for almost two years?'” Auditor Devra Smestad said. A consequence of any undelivered tax payment can be an account showing a delinquency, she noted.

The recent returned mail included two voter ballots from last fall’s election, which arrived March 25 with no postmark to indicate when they were mailed.

Smestad said the ballots carried a note from the post office that the envelopes were found in equipment thought to be empty. In another instance, her office received returned mail containing a check, minus the check stubs. An individual – not the one to whom the check had been mailed – returned the stubs that had shown up in an envelope in their mail. The office also received a letter, correctly addressed to the auditor’s office, that was hand delivered by the taxpayer after the postal service returned it to him.

Walter said he also has heard complaints from people who lost thousands of dollars in early-bird discounts because mail was postmarked a day or more after it was mailed.

“That’s pretty pathetic for a community our size when something like that happens,” he said.

Liaison committee reviews 911 budget for 2020

The Ward-Minot liaison committee reviewed a $2.2 million budget for the Emergency 911 system March 27.

Larry Haug, 911 coordinator, said the 2019 budget is coming up $698,706 short of revenue due to under-estimation of collections and carryover of the previous year’s negative balance. The City of Minot agreed to make up $454,159 of the shortfall with cash reserves, and the remaining money is coming from a depreciation fund that will need to be replaced. Ward County taxes of $250,385 are proposed to go up by another $244,547 in 2020 to replenish that money. The city’s tax contribution for 2020 is estimated at $465,000.

The 2020 budget includes $1.1 million in estimated telephone fees, down from $1.14 million in the 2019 budget.