County frustrated with broken DMV licensing system

There are few things people dislike more than feeling like they’re having their time wasted. Whether it be traffic jams, waiting for a table at a restaurant or long lines at checkout aisles in stores, waiting is often the hardest part.
But when the long lines and longer-than-expected wait times could be and were accurately predicted, it has become even more infuriating.
At the Sept. 5 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala and Becky Aanerud of the county’s license bureau came before the commissioners to explain the headaches that have been associated with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s computer program rollover in the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Lines that typically only kept motorists waiting a few minutes have more than tripled, creating some short tempers as drivers try to get their licenses renewed, new license tabs or plates or transferring titles who have been forced to stand in line for hours to get their turn.
There were some delays expected when the new system went on line more than six weeks ago, but the problems have only become worse with time and, the issue people like Aanerud have is that it was predicted long before the new system went live.
“It’s been a nightmare,” Aanerud said. “Prior to the rollout on July 24th, several letters were sent to the Department of Public Safety from the Deputy Registrar’s Association – a lot of communications stating we don’t feel that this is correct, that it’s not ready and that there are many deficiencies there. All we kept hearing was ‘they’re being worked on. We are aware.’”
Local deputy registrars contacted their legislators, but heard the same story – the glitches are being fixed and not to worry. Six weeks later, people who have sent in license tab renewals still haven’t received their tabs and there is no immediate cure in sight.
“At one point, the whole system was just stopped,” Aanerud said. “At one point all we could do is renewals and the fees weren’t coming back correctly. The fees were adding a dollar. Sometimes they were making people get new plates prior to when they were supposed to get plates. That dollar (issue) has been fixed, but we still aren’t able to do tax-exempt vehicles – we do quite a few of those for the cities, the townships and the county. What they want at this point is for all of those to be mailed in directly to St. Paul with the check made payable to them. Therefore, we’re losing out once again on that filing fee money that helps run our office. The system is not at all up to par.”
Lines have been extremely long on the first floor of the county courthouse because what would typically take five minutes is now taking 15 minutes or longer. The county has urged people to mail in license tab renewals to their local license bureau because many who have sent their tab renewals to the DPS office in St. Paul have had their checks cashed, but have not received their new license tabs. The local office has received numerous phone calls from residents who haven’t received their new tabs and all that can be done at the county level is to send them duplicate tabs – with an additional fee of $11.
Minnesota law enforcement has been made aware of the crisis and aren’t handing out tickets for expired license tabs because those agencies are aware that thousands of people have attempted to get their tabs renewed, but haven’t received them. However, if someone travels out of state, they’re not as fortunate.
“The problem is going to be the people who are driving out of state,” Aanerud said. “If they are, other states aren’t aware that the tabs haven’t been sent out. That could become an issue.”
One of the goals of the new system is that it would greatly decrease the time that it would take to input and ship out title transfers from six weeks down to one week. Aanerud said that no title transfers made since the July 24 debut of the new system have gone through and been put in the hands of the vehicle buyers.
There is no timetable for when the system will be up and running as expected, but Hiivala said his staff in the license bureau are grateful for the understanding residents have shown – even though it has been a source of frustration for everyone involved.
“We appreciate the public’s patience with DMV,” Hiivala said. “Their system wasn’t ready and we have to work with this system. We still have issues and there are still things we can’t even do now that we’ve been live as long as we have.”
In other items on the Sept. 5 agenda, the board:
• Announced the death of former County Commissioner Judie Rose, of Buffalo, who died over Labor Day weekend. Commissioners Christine Husom and Mike Potter spoke with high regard of Rose’s service to Wright County as a resident and a county commissioner.
* Authorized signatures on a lease agreement for the 2017-18 school year with Independent School District 877 (Buffalo High School) for use of space in the county courthouse for the wRight Choice program.
* Acknowledged receipt of the annual county auction report. A total of 63 seized items (cars, boats, etc.) netted the county $109,000 in on-site and on-line sales – the highest auction proceeds since 2013.
* Approved the payment of claims, which no longer have to wait until the county board’s meeting. Hiivala said that the streamlined payment of claims has been going well in the short time that it has been in place. The board approved the direct payment of claims at the Aug. 29 board meeting.
* Authorized signatures on a three-year life insurance provider contract with Minnesota Life. The contract will provide life insurance coverage for county employees.

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