Mark Taylor
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Johnson County Commissioners expressed frustration last week over ongoing motor vehicle registration problems associated with a new computer system launched by the state in May.
Although Tom Franzen, county treasurer, said wait times have improved over the past few months, the new system remains far from efficient.
Since the new system was launched, customers have waited hours for registration renewals and title work, and the county has expended $800,000 for additional employees to help with the additional workload.
Beyond that, the county has spent tens of thousands on overtime expenses.
Hannes Zacharias, county manager, said there has been talk about raising registration fees by $2 to help cover the shortfall.
But Commissioner Calvin Hayden said the state should be ultimately held accountable.
At one point he suggested that the county consider implementing its own motor vehicle registration system.
“Taxpayers keep getting the shaft in this,” Hayden said.  “Not only are we going to add insult to injury. We are truly adding cost to the taxpayer when they have been extremely patient. At some point we’ve got to draw the line.
“Throwing money at it is not going to fix it.  We’ve thrown people at it and we’ve thrown money at it. At some point do we throw lawyers at it?”
Zacharias responded, “Statute says we have to do what the state tells us to do.”
Hayden countered, “Statute can be changed with phone calls.”
The state’s vehicle registration system was switched over from a 30-year-old mainframe to a real time processing system in May.
However, the new $40 million system has resulted in long service delays, and customers have been cut off at mid-day because of capacity problems.
Tom Franzen, county treasurer, said the difference between the old system and the new system is that previously, motor vehicle offices stored data on their own servers during the day and then transferred it to Topeka after doors closed.
Now each piece of data is sent to Topeka directly.
State officials have said the delay problems could last as long as a year.
Several counties, including Johnson, Shawnee and Sedgwick have experienced additional expenses and service delays with the new system.
Franzen said the average wait time for customers seeking to renew their plates or register a title was about 30 to 40 minutes under the old system.
Once customers got to the window, transactions took about 10 minutes.
With the new system, wait times averaged three hours and 30 minutes for renewals and four hours for titles in May.
In June and July, wait times were about two and a half hours for renewals and four hours for titles.
Wait times for August are down to an average one hour for renewals and two hours for titles.
Average processing times at the windows were about 10 minutes for renewals and 18 minutes for titles in May, 10 minutes for renewals and 17 minutes for titles in June, 9 minutes for renewals and 16 minutes for titles in July, and 8.5 minutes for renewals and 15 minutes for titles in August.
Franzen said the department hasn’t recently had to close the office early except for two days at the end of August for those seeking title work.
That is a result of more customers doing their transactions on line and via mail.