By Gene Meyer | Kansas Reporter
MISSION — Lines for car tags and titles are moving a little faster at the Kansas Division of Motor Vehicles office on Lamar Ave., four months after the state installed a new computer system.
But here and in other DMV offices around the state, the lines are still moving slow enough to worry car dealers.
“We know we are losing sales,” said Don Neely, executive director of the Kansas Auto Dealers Association in Topeka. “Our customers tell us they can’t afford to take off five or six hours to wait in line for a car title.”
In Mission, the waiting time for tags or title still ran about two hours Friday, compared to minutes during all but the busiest month-end days before the Kansas Department of Revenue switched the computers statewide in May.
Still, it’s better than the eight- or nine-hour waits when the new computers first booted up.
Johnson County Treasurer Tom Franzen’s office runs the state’s two busiest DMV offices, in Mission and Olathe.
“The bottom line is that in the last couple of months, we have settled into a system that is what it is,” Franzen said.
“We’re working now to get as many people who can renew online or by mail to do that, because we no longer have the capacity to serve everyone if they come in to the office (in person),” he said.
Nobody can predict when the new computers will serve customers as efficiently as the old system. Revenue Department officials and 3M Co., the new system’s creator, are still working out some final problems.
Jeannine Koranda, the Revenue Department’s chief public information officer, insists the program is working as designed, or nearly so.
“We processed our one-millionth transaction just last week.” Koranda said.
And once motorists get to the head of the line, transaction times are between three and five minutes for simple renewals and 10 to 15 minutes for registering new titles, a more complex transaction, she said.
Department officials and 3M originally planned for the system to begin managing state drivers’ licenses and identification cards in September or October.
“That’s been pushed back, until we are sure we’ve got this right,” Koranda said. “We don’t have a new date yet.”
Franzen in Johnson County is eying a more immediate yardstick of progress.
“I just want to get the turn-around time for new titles back down to two days,” he said.
Meantime, auto dealers must use the new system when they produce the titles motorists need to register their cars, said Kansas state Sen. Jeff Longbine, R- Emporia, who also is a Buick-Chevrolet dealer there.
Auto dealers, working through dealer registration channels run by the Kansas Auto Dealers Association, plug into the system a lot of specific information about who-owes-what-to-whom and other financing details to create new titles or transfer old ones. And too often, that doesn’t work online with the new computers, Longbine said.
“Technically, we can’t sell a car without a title,” Longbine said. “We have sit and wait it out, and I think we’re losing sales because of it.”
No one so far has calculated what the extra paperwork, delay sand lost sales have cost Kansas dealers, said Neely, the trade association president.
“We have no way of knowing,” he said.
But other costs can be measured, said Jeff Kocen, an Overland Park resident who has set up a website dedicated to reforming Revenue Department and computer systems management.
Just in Johnson County, where Overland Park is located, “we’re looking at more than $800,000 in payroll costs for 16 new people DMV had to hire, plus overtime,” Kocen said.
“Plus we had to put extra sheriff’s deputies in the offices for security, when the new computers started causing all the long lines,” he said. “I’d like to know what that cost.”
It’s $52,151, said Johnson County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Tom Erickson,.“That’s the total we’ve spent through August 15.”
Contact Gene Meyer at email@example.com