Searching for a better DMV in Kansas: Part 1

Published On: Dec 24 2013 01:47:38 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 07 2013 07:32:57 AM CST

Lawmakers say it’s one of the top reasons people call their offices.  FactFinder 12 received hundreds of calls and e-mails about it over the last year and half.

Long lines, waits up to four or five hours, and system outages have plagued the state’s DMV system since it went on-line last year.

Click here to see tips for renewing your tags, driver's license

A $40 million modernization project still isn't fully installed, and over the last year there have been long lines, system failures, and other issues.

“We admit there were some hiccups,” says Department of Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan.

There are two phases to the upgrade.  Phase one, which was launched last spring, includes all tag offices.

Phase two will upgrade driver’s license offices.  That phase we’ve learned is on indefinite hold.

“We've not set a date ... we're obviously going to be overly, overly cautious,” says Jordan.

Lawmakers, and it doesn't matter which party, know how frustrated Kansans have become with the system.

“Other than unemployment call, the second most calls I get is frustration about standing in line at the DMV,” says Representative Jim Ward.

The state awarded a $25 million dollar contract to software company 3M.  Almost 90 percent of that contract has been paid despite the problems and delay in launching phase two. 

“When you award a contract without competition, without incentives and performance measures, that's the type of thing of thing that happens with government,” says Representative Jim Howell, who helped bring a new driver’s license office to the Derby area.

Jordan says he’s well aware of all the complaints, although his office doesn’t track them.

“Those are not good reports to us - we're upset when we hear them,” says Jordan.

He points to changes made including the new driver's license office in Derby.  It was opened to relieve pressure on what was Sedgwick County's only office. That office used to close on Mondays.

“We want to break that 10 years or whatever it's been of the four day week.  That's inconvenient to tax payers so we're going to five day weeks hoping that will more convenient,” says Jordan.

Why were they on a four day week? 

“I can't answer that,” Jordan told FactFinder 12.

The four day week actually started in the mid-1980s.

FactFinder 12 asked, but the state can’t tell us how many failures there have been, which counties were affected most, or how long the outages lasted.  Some of it’s not tracked, some of the information the state says it can’t share because of security and proprietary reasons.

FactFinder 12 also reached out to 3M. It says Kansas is one of several states to “go live” with the new software. Other states include Montana, Iowa, Connecticut, and Kentucky.

A spokesperson says the company has 40 employees dedicated to the upgrade in Kansas. 

He declined to say exactly how many failures there have been or who was responsible.   The company did say it’s spending $700,000 a month on the Kansas project.  Those costs are covered by the company, not the state.  It has also sent employees, at the cost of the company, to Kansas to address issues.

Although there are still some issues with phase one, it is up and running.

As of today, the title and registration system has successfully handled almost 6.7 million transactions and the time it takes the system to process a renewal is less than four minutes according to the state.  Four minutes is the time it takes once a customer gets to the counter. 

“For Kansans what we'd like to say is it's designed to give better customer service,” says Jordan.

Looking back over the last year and looking ahead to the next phase, lawmakers say it can be done better.

“This is how people interact with state government. It's a basic core function and we should do it better,” says Ward.

Tuesday night, FactFinder 12 travels out of state to show you a different way of operating a DMV.  We look at the private model where customers have more choice and where the people operating the offices have to compete for contracts.

Look for that report Tuesday night at 10.