Publisher’s Perspective

Chad Koenen

Last week our family took a long-awaited trip to Florida. We had been planning the trip for quite some time as a way to break up winter, and wouldn’t you know, the year we plan a winter getaway has been one of the nicest winters we have seen in Minnesota in a generation. 

As someone who struggles to get away and not work during downtimes, I checked my email periodically during our trip and was amazed at all of the emails and phone calls our staff received from people who did not get a newspaper last week. 

Since we were gone last week we did not physically bring newspapers to the additional nine post offices we started delivering to last fall to speed up delivery of this publication. These additional post offices are located in Sebeka, Menahga, Wadena, Deer Creek, Ottertail and Parkers Prairie. 

Last week we received probably 15-20 phone calls or emails from people who did not receive their newspaper for approximately one week. We apologize for the delay and will get back to our new USPS delivery route where we physically bring newspapers to nine different post offices since it is quite evident the USPS processing plants are still experiencing long delays with periodical mailings. 

While our local postal carriers and postmasters are amazing to work with, and I cannot say enough about the hard work our local representatives do to try and correct issues as they come about, their hands are basically tied when letters, newspapers and packages leave their post office to go to a processing plant. 

After learning last October that it took nearly a week to get newspapers delivered to some of our communities just 15 miles away, we began delivering the Henning, New York Mills and Frazee newspapers to nine post offices in the area. Our delivery route to drop newspapers off at each of these post offices encompasses some 150 miles and takes the better part of half a day for Dani and me to complete. 

In November, rural mail carriers stood outside the Bemidji Post Office for at least two days carrying signs and protesting what they described as unsustainable working conditions and their feeling that Amazon deliveries were prioritized over actual mail. 

In a story compiled by WCCO in the Twin Cities, a USPS representative stated that the post office does not prioritize the delivery of Amazon packages or other customers over another. 

However, one has to ask why a package from Amazon, or another big box retailer, can be delivered in mere days of its purchase, yet a letter that is postmarked on January 31 can take 10 days to get delivered from just 60 miles away. Or how a newspaper can take over a week to be delivered just 15 miles?

Recently, the USPS conducted an audit of the Minnesota post office branches and found delayed mail, safety issues and deficiencies in property conditions. The initial audit looked at branches in Apple Valley, Eagan and New Brighton, as well as the St. Paul processing and distribution center during a week in November, according to the USPS Office of Inspector General’s report. 

At the St. Paul processing and distribution center, reviewers identified over 56,000 pieces of delayed mail over a three-day period. In Apple Valley, reviewers found 29,000 pieces of mail delayed on one day and in Eagan, more than 53,000 delays were found on one day. 

Now, the USPS says it will perform an audit of the entire Minnesota-North Dakota District.

So the question begs to be asked, where do we go from here? 

For starters, the upper management at USPS needs to admit there is a problem with the postal service delivery of first class mail/periodicals and actually look at fixing the problem.

If the USPS management doesn’t think there is a problem then we will all be stuck hoping that our payments are delivered in a timely manner through the mail and our bills themselves are being delivered to our doorstep to be paid. And perhaps that is the scariest part of this entire conversation about the USPS—what happens when a life insurance or health insurance bill/renewal is lost in the mail or delayed for several days to weeks and that person were to fall ill? We doubt many health insurance companies will care if we didn’t pay our bill because we never got it in the mail and our insurance lapsed in a time of need. Or how about if an impending legal document is delayed several weeks because processing plants are overrun by packages? 

Basically, the best thing to do is contact your state legislator. We know US Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith have held listening sessions in the Bemidji area from constituents about the delayed mail delivery. We at the newspaper can contact legislators all we want, but legislators really listen when a group of constituents get together and share their concerns. 

In short, please continue to tell us if you are experiencing a delay in getting your newspaper so we can ensure your address is correct and current. But at the same time, please contact your legislators and let them know about the concerns you have been having with delayed mail service. 

After all, our local mail carriers and postmasters want us all to receive the mail in a timely manner and are willing to go the extra mile to ensure that happens—if they are afforded the opportunity to do so.