Deficit Leads Bloomington to Close Heavily Subsidized DMV Office

It’s safe to say there won’t be an outcry from Bloomington residents over the city’s decision to shut down its branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles. There’s probably not a lot of grassroots  support for one of the most lampooned services provided by local government, particularly with several alternative DMV offices in the south metro.

The city blamed the closure on the more than $375,000 cost of subsidizing the office in the midst of a substantial budget deficit attributed to the economic impact of the pandemic, according to the Star Tribune.

Some Bloomington officials say the cut is necessary to patch a $7 million hole in the 2021 budget caused mostly by decreased lodging taxes due to the pandemic’s impact on the hospitality industry. But other city leaders decried the loss of a valuable resource and questioned the city’s financial priorities.

There’s a reason why many look forward to a return trip to the DMV as much as going to the dentist. The most recent reminder comes from Moorhead, where Forum Communications says wait times to get a driver’s license re-upped or tabs for your vehicle can reportedly take hours.

Reports of people waiting four hours for service at the Clay County Department of Motor Vehicles office certainly aren’t the norm, according to county officials.

Clay County Auditor Lori Johnson and County Administrator Steve Larson said one or even a few such claims found in recent weeks on Facebook may have been true.

But Johnson, who oversees the recently relocated office on the north side of the Moorhead Center Mall, said the average wait time is 30 to 45 minutes.

Larson, who was monitoring the Clay County DMV office on Thursday, Jan. 21, said the average wait that day was about 9 minutes.

Part of the problem is that consumers never know what to expect, whether in Moorhead or many other DMVs around the state.

The longest wait time for an individual on Thursday was 56 minutes, and that might have been for Taylor Dobbs of Moorhead, who said she had been waiting about an hour to register her vehicle.

“I’ve seen people come and go,” Dobbs said with a frustrated look on her face.

She said the system that provides numbers to people in order to be called to the window appeared to be “whacked.”

Turns out part of the issue relates to the notorious MNLARs license and registration system that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety was forced to scrap after wasting years and tens of millions of dollars developing it.

Additionally, the county is working with the state’s new computer system — about two months old — that followed failed software that drew a mountain of criticism for its problems. There are still some glitches with the new system that may cause delays, Johnson and Larson said.

Clay County intends to hire a new employee to speed up wait times and service. After all, the first step to solving a problem is to recognize there is one, right?

Johnson said DMVs around the nation are known for being “notoriously problematic” as far as waiting times., and Larson agreed.

“It seems like it’s never, ever enough,” he said.