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Patrons surprised by sudden closing of Post Office at Donnybrook

The 42 postal customers who received their mail in boxes at the Donnybrook Post Office had a surprise waiting for them with the deliveries made August 9th. They were informed in a letter signed by Wanda Cleveland, manager of Post Office Operations in Bismarck, that their local post office would close its doors on Saturday, August 14th.

8/18/10 (Wed)


The 42 postal customers who received their mail in boxes at the Donnybrook Post Office had a surprise waiting for them with the deliveries made August 9th.


They were informed in a letter signed by Wanda Cleveland, manager of Post Office Operations in Bismarck, that their local post office would close its doors on Saturday, August 14th.


In order to continue receiving their mail locally, these patrons would also need to install a mailbox at their property for delivery beginning Monday, August 16th, by Mary Lou Knutson, carrier for the Donnybrook mail route.


“And we have to change all the addresses,” said Donnybrook resident Joanne Goettle. “How do you let everybody know these things?”


The Donnybrook Post Office has been served for the past six weeks by Staci Haugen, a U.S. Postal Service Office-In-Charge who was commuting six days a week from Makoti, after working as Postmaster Relief in Carpio. Haugen actually moved into the Donnybrook position after the most recent postmaster took another job.


The window at Donnybrook was open 9:30 am until 2 pm each Monday through Friday, with Saturday hours from 9:30 until 11 am. “We provided all services and sales of all postal products,” Haugen said. “It’s a full service window.”


Even as Haugen described how patrons should leave their keys with her or in their post office boxes after Saturday, the office looked ready for business with USPS posters hanging on the walls to advertise the newest stamps issued for 2010 and list upcoming holidays. The post office has long been the center for local communication and dispatches, with an announcement hanging on a small bulletin board for a scheduled farewell coffee next to a poster with contact information for an individual seeking a used paddleboat.


Community members expressed mixed feelings about the post office closing. “Some of them saw it coming,” Haugen said. “Others who have been here a long time are sad to see this is the change that has to take place.”


“It’s probably one of those inevitables,” said resident Marshall Johnson. “We’ll learn to get along without it, but for my job with the USDA, I’ll miss it a lot.”


Johnson explained he works as a field enumerator supervisor, hired by the USDA, for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. “I mail a lot of stuff, like boxes of grain samples,” he said. “Now, I’ll have to drive to Carpio or Minot.”


“I’m not surprised,” said Gas Depot manager Pam Linderleaf, “and I just bought my mailbox.” She was actually looking forward to home mail delivery, but she admitted she would have to pay attention to snow removal around her new mailbox during the winter months.


“We kind of knew it was coming sometime,” added Donnybrook mayor Dennis Huff. “They claim they can’t find anybody to work there.”


In fact, the first paragraph of the official letter stated the OIC, Haugen, had found other employment and the current Postmaster Relief had provided a verbal notice of resignation. “Efforts to find an available, qualified, current postal employee to run the Donnybrook Post Office have been unsuccessful,” Cleveland wrote. “Therefore, it will be necessary to suspend services at the Donnybrook Post Office at the close of business on Saturday, August 14, 2010.”


She continued, “This change is tentative and will not lead to a formal proposal unless we conclude that it will provide a maximum degree of regular and effective postal services.”


Home delivery

Mail intended for Donnybrook residents had been sorted at the Carpio post office each morning, with the box section delivered to the Donnybrook post office for Haugen to sort into the proper boxes. “That mail will stay in Carpio now and be sorted to the routes,” explained Haugen.


Actually, carrier Mary Lou Knutson will sort those bags, one of several changes she faces. “This will add time for the sorting,” she said. “I usually leave Carpio by 9 am and I’m scheduled to get to the Donnybrook post office by 9:30. Now, I’ll probably leave Carpio by 9:30 am and it will be close to 10 am before I arrive in Donnybrook.” She laughed as she admitted she spent extra time last Saturday afternoon retraining herself for the sorting duties.


Donnybrook residents will receive their mail first, as Knutson makes the rounds through town. She was delivering to 70 boxes on her route, and she expected to add between 35 and 40 boxes in Donnybrook beginning this week. She said she finished most days by 12:30 pm and returned home for lunch, but she predicted she would be working until 1:30 or 2 pm, making the trip back to the Carpio Post Office after completing her route.


She noted several residents had been cooperative about putting up their mailboxes. “The ones I’ve talked to, I’ve told them, ‘You know where you pull in and back out. You know where the snow goes at your place,’” she said.


Former post office customers in Donnybrook will have to complete the proper change of address notifications. Knutson suggested residents who did not know their official street address should contact the Ward County Sheriff’s Administration Office for the appropriate information.


One concern Knutson did have was that, as of Sunday evening, some residents had not yet set up a mailbox. “If they don’t have a box at their place, I’ll have to take the mail back to Carpio and hold it for them,” she said. “When they get their box up, they’ll start receiving their mail [at their home].”


Knutson said the closure of the Donnybrook Post Office was just as much of a surprise to her as it was to Donnybrook residents. “The carriers and the Carpio postmaster got the letter that same day,” she said. “But I’d been wondering if it was going to happen.”


As a Donnybrook city council member, Knutson was aware of the post office building’s condition. “A company from New York bought that building from Jeff Jones, and the post office leases space there,” she said. “That building is old and dilapidated. It should be torn down.” She described the portion of the building not used by the USPS as smelling of mold, with pieces of the ceiling falling down among other problems.


She also mentioned other options for locating the post office in town, including the American Legion Hall, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church parish hall and the Donnybrook Community Center.


Services at the

Carpio Post Office

If former Donnybrook Post Office patrons don’t want to place a mailbox on their property, they can rent a post office box in Carpio. The full service window is open there from 7:30 am until 12:30 pm, and from 1 to 3:15 pm Monday through Friday, with Saturday hours from 7:20 until 8:50 am.


“We’ll take care of any needs they have,” said Postmaster Kevin Nissen. “Hopefully, it will be a good, smooth transition.”


He noted Knutson and the other carriers are equipped to provide several services to customers on the route, including mailing packages, purchasing stamps by mail, purchasing postal money orders, holding mail, and special services such as certified, registered, Express Mail, delivery confirmation, signature confirmation and COD. Most transactions can take place with a note and payment left by the customer, with the requested items or receipts left in the mailbox on the next delivery day.


Packages that cannot be delivered on the route will be returned to the Carpio Post Office for pick-up there, as well as mail requiring signatures, such as certified letters received. In her letter to Donnybrook postal customers, Cleveland mentioned customers could also request delivery on a more convenient day or authorize the carrier to deliver the item to another person.


Post Office open 115 years

The first Donnybrook Post Office opened on March 20, 1895, two years after the town was platted, with Martha J. Power as Postmaster. The original post office was housed in a log cabin in a coulee later used by the community as a park.


Johnson stood in the Donnybrook Post Office two days before its doors closed and ticked off a list of businesses that lined Main Street during his childhood, including a grocery store, the post office, city hall, bar, bank, cafe and pool hall. “Then across the street, there was a garage and gas station, three houses and the old newspaper office,” he said.


He continued, “It’s all gone. It’s the closing of a progression, the shrinking of rural North Dakota, but it’s only sad to the old-timers.”


Meeting planned

to discuss next steps

Donnybrook postal customers are invited to a meeting with USPS representatives on Tuesday, August 24th, at the Carpio Senior Center from 7 to 9 pm to discuss their questions and concerns about the post office closure. Cleveland assured patrons in her letter that a decision to permanently discontinue the post office had not been made. The Donnybrook ZIP code of 58734 also remains in use.


“Like any adjustment, give it time and it will work out,” Knutson said, “but if anyone has any questions or problems, contact the postmaster in Carpio or me, and we’ll work together to work it out.”


Postmaster Kevin Nissen can be reached during lobby hours at the Carpio Post Office or by calling 701-468-5480.