BISMARCK (AP) - Mail delivery to some customers in the northwestern North Dakota oil boom town of Williston has been disrupted after four carriers quit at the beginning of the Christmas rush, the U.S. Postal Service says.
Postal Service spokesman Peter Nowacki said Monday that four people resigned this month with little or no notice. He said some Williston residents haven't received mail for several days and the resignations also have caused mail to back up in the town's post office because the carriers were needed to help sort mail.
"We just didn't have the folks to cover," Nowacki said. The Williston post office has 25 people on the job and six openings.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., held a public meeting Monday with local and Postal Service officials, including Drew Aliperto, vice president for area operations. The meeting comes after an August visit by Hoeven and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to hear about postal-related challenges in the region.
"We've got this at the highest level," Hoeven told The Associated Press. "We have made progress but there is a lot more to do."
Advanced drilling technology has thrust North Dakota into the nation's No. 2 oil-producing slot behind Texas. Ninety percent of drilling activity in the state is within a 70-mile radius of Williston, which census figures show is the fastest growing city its size in the country.
Williston's population has doubled in the past decade to more than 25,000 people and the unemployment rate is less than 1 percent. The bulk of the city's residents work in oil-related jobs and the average annual salary has jumped from about $32,000 in 2006 to about $78,000 last year.
Hoeven said he is pushing to increase wages for Postal Service employees in the region and to provide housing for them, although he said the latter is unlikely.
"We can't even keep people let alone fill these positions," he said.
Nowacki said the Postal Service is working to temporarily move some carriers from other states to help out, but the problem is exacerbated with the Christmas postal rush ramping up, he said.
"We're beating that drum to get as many people in as we possibly can," said Nowacki. "We're trying to get some people who are already in the system to help out, at least temporarily."
Nowacki, a Postal Service employee for 27 years, said he's never seen anything like the explosion of activity in North Dakota's oil patch.
"The growth is so rapid that it's hard to keep up with it," he said. "We're facing the same pressure as everybody else. It's tough for anybody to keep up."