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Searching for a better DMV: Is a private model the answer?

By Michael Schwanke, mschwanke@kwch.com
Published On: Nov 05 2013 09:47:38 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 06 2013 06:46:37 AM CST
WICHITA, Kan. -

Going to the DMV in Missouri is a different experience.

“Everybody knows this is the place to come to,” says Melissa Rohach after helping her father renew tags at a Belton, Missouri office.

In Missouri, private contractors run the offices.  They have to compete for the opportunity.

“It's a bid process,” says Belton office manager Shirley Turner.

What goes into it?

“A lot,” says Turner.

Every four years the contractors have to convince the state they can do the job.  If they have a track record of poor service, they could lose their contract.

“Yes, or not be awarded it again,” says Turner.

The state considers things like customer service and hours of operation.  And in Missouri, customers have a choice.  If they don’t like it at one office, they can choose another.

“My theory is these people are paying my paycheck, so treat them like a customer,” says Turner.

The offices get a portion of every transaction.  The more tags and licenses they process, the more money they make.

Customers tell us it’s not perfect, and there can still be waits, but most think it’s more efficient than a state operated system.

So is privatization an option for Kansas?

“We're not opposed to it," says Kansas Department of Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan. "We've looked at it, we're continuing to look it, but we have statutory limitations."

Meaning Kansas would have to change the law.  But privatization is something lawmakers have discussed and may in the future.

“Once things get stabilized I think privatization is something we need to look at - because frankly, as hard as they try, for whatever reason they don't have the efficiency we see in private industry,” says Representative Jim Howell who helped bring a driver’s license office to the Derby area.

Representative Jim Ward says DMV concerns are one of the top reasons people call his office.  He too, says privatization could be an option in the future.

“I think we could look at it," he says. " I think if a private company can process folks faster for a cost effective way I think it's something we should look at it. But again, I don't think there's a magic bullet here."

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