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SPOTLIGHT
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Kan. treasurers say computer system worth the wait

Published on -5/21/2012, 7:22 AM

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MISSION, Kan. (AP) -- County treasurers across Kansas are trying to convince people that longer-than-normal waits in motor vehicle offices will be well worth the benefits of a new computer system designed to make day-to-day operations more efficient.

Those reassurances aren't quelling the frustration of thousands of people who are spending nearly entire workdays in DMV offices to handle matters that typically take a fraction of the time.

Treasurer offices in the state's 105 counties stopped handling motor vehicle registrations, driver's license applications and related business for about a week early this month as the new system was installed and workers were trained.

That caused a massive backlog, especially in busier offices, that needed to be addressed. On the fly, employees learned how to use the new system, which replaces technology installed in the mid-1980s.

"This is the first time I've ever asked for help from another county," said Sedgwick County Treasurer Linda Kazzire, who has worked in the office for more than 20 years.

Lane County Treasurer Pat Sharp, president of the Kansas Association of County Treasurers, is helping Kazzire process lien releases, which are necessary for car title transfers.

"I know there are long lines in some places, but I'm a small county, and we don't have that problem," Sharp said.

Donna Shelite, state DMV director, said the $40 million project hasn't been without its share of problems, but the vendor has been responsive and customers have been patient. She tried to put a positive spin on the changes, pointing out that the new system will combine several sets of records that in the past had to be updated separately, and will be easier to upgrade.

"This system puts the customer at the center in all transactions," she said.

On Friday, the system had some customers in Mission, a suburb of Kansas City, hitting golf balls in the lobby of a county office building while waiting to pay the sales tax on a car purchase.

John Kostoryz and his twin brother, Jim, said they arrived at 8:30 a.m. with plans to play golf afterward to celebrate their 70th birthday. Jim, a former Kansas resident, was visiting from North Carolina.

Just after 1:30 p.m., they were told their wait would be at least another hour, so John Kostoryz grabbed putters and a half-dozen fluorescent yellow golf balls from his car and their putting competition began.

Tyler Brown, 25, of Overland Park, had planned to take Friday morning off to renew his tags, which expired at the end of March. He was at the Mission office when the doors opened at 7:30 a.m. and was told there was already a five-hour wait. At 1:30 p.m., he finally affixed his new sticker to his license plate.

"This morning, my wife was going to go with me," Brown said. "It's a good thing she didn't. She would have been pretty mad."

Johnson County Treasurer Tom Franzen urged anyone who doesn't have to do business at the DMV to use online or mail-in options. He said most people are like the Kostoryz brothers and have taken the long waits in stride, noting that Friday typically is the busiest day of the week.

"It hasn't been perfect, but most of the community has been understanding," Franzen said. "There has been a big change, and it's a complex system. It's not the county's fault, it's just part of the process.

"I'm hopeful we will get things improved by the end of the month."

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