April 24, 2012

Upgrade to close driver’s license, tag offices

Driver’s license stations and tag offices are closing across the state next week, which likely will make lines even longer this week.

Driver’s license stations and tag offices are closing across the state next week, which likely will make lines even longer this week.

Officials say the end result will be a more modern recordkeeping system that will merge Kansans’ driving records with their license and vehicle registration information.

That means when a law enforcement officer stops you for speeding, he’ll have real-time information about your driving record and vehicle.

It also means that if you own more than one vehicle, the clerk behind the counter at the tag office will be able to pull up all your registrations instead of doing each transaction separately.

The new system will be more efficient, said Donna Shelite, the state’s director of vehicles.

“Our ultimate goal is improved customer service and efficiency, and we greatly appreciate our customers’ cooperation in planning ahead as we make this important transition.”

The $40 million project, funded with a $4 fee drivers paid when registering their vehicles, has been in the works since 2006. That’s when leaders began talking about the need to upgrade aging mainframe systems that couldn’t talk to each other and keep information about drivers in one place.

The weeklong closure — needed, officials say, to transfer 6.8 million records to the new system — means people whose licenses or registrations expire this week need to take care of business now.

•  People whose last names start with C or D should renew their vehicle tags by Monday.
•  People whose licenses expire through May 7 should renew no later than Friday.

Driver’s license stations will be open regular hours, 7 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., until the weeklong shutdown.

But Sedgwick County Treasurer Linda Kizzire opted to extend hours at her tag offices this week and after the shutdown. The treasurer’s office will remain open for other business, such as property tax payments. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan recently recognized Kizzire and Martha Herridge, tag office manager, for their work on the project.

The four tag offices will be open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Monday as well as May 9, 10 and 11.

Online tag renewals will be unavailable starting Thursday. The site will be back up May 8.

Long lines

Lines have been long at the driver’s license stations in Wichita and Andover, which are operated by the state, not Kizzire’s office.

Shelite said she is aware of problems at those offices, which she said may be further affected by people needing to renew before the shutdown next week.

“That has been a problem that we’ve had for quite some time,” she said of long lines.

Shelite said she is looking into staffing issues there.

“Hopefully in the near future we’ll see some different structure in those offices where it will save time.”

At the Wichita office at Twin Lakes, lines have been so long that the state installed a system that allows people to sign in, leave a cellphone number for contact and come back when it’s their turn.

“It’ll send you a text message and let you know where you are in line and when you need to come back,” Shelite said. “That way people can go run errands or go back to work.”

The state is working on a system that will let people get in line virtually online and receive a text message when they need to show up in person.

Shelite said the wait in Wichita has been averaging about an hour.

‘This is crazy’

But that didn’t seem to be the case Friday, when 85-year-old Marie Trueblood spent at least 2 1/2 hours waiting to get a Kansas ID card.

Trueblood said her driver’s license expired in February when she was in the hospital. She no longer has a car, she said, but she wanted to get an ID card.

“I’m getting tired,” she said about 3:30 p.m. Friday.

“The tag office is faster than this,” Tonya Weatherman chimed in, sitting nearby.

Weatherman was helping Jerry Jackson get a new license to drive his scooter.

They had been in line for more than two hours, too, and hadn’t had lunch yet. Jackson said he was hungry; Weatherman joked that her butt hurt from sitting in the hard seat.

Cecilia Schreck, 14, was waiting to get her learner’s permit. She got to the office at noon, she said.

“I got out of school early just to sit here,” she said. “I’m definitely bored.”

Wichita resident Bob Leake said he went to Andover’s driver’s license station a week ago today to get a learner’s permit for his son, who has since turned 15.

At 9 a.m., there were about 40 people standing in a line that weaved outside the office.

“A woman came out and had been there an hour and a half,” he said.

Leake decided “I don’t have an hour and a half to wait here. I’ll try later; maybe this is an aberration.”

Later that day, he and his son tried the Wichita station at Twin Lakes at 21st and Amidon.

“I get over there, and find out that to renew a driver’s license, it is a two-hour wait. To get a new one, it was a one-hour wait,” he said. “I was like, ‘This is crazy.’ ”

The wait prompted Leake to call the governor’s office, which directed him to Shelite’s office.

His son never got the permit.

“I gave up,” Leake said. “I’ll just wait until summer.”

Asked about wait times, revenue spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda said: “We appreciate the strong response we’ve gotten from Kansans across the state who have come in early to renew their driver’s licenses or identification cards prior to the first week of May. One advantage to the system upgrade will be the ability to process licenses more efficiently.

“The division is also looking at other ways to reduce lines and make people’s visits to the driver licensing stations more efficient.”

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