Vehicle registrations on hold until Wednesday


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LARRY KLINE Independent Record

Motor-vehicle registration services will be suspended throughout Montana early this week as the state attempts to work through problems in a month-old software system that on Friday stretched wait lines for titles beyond two hours in offices across the state. No walk-in title and renewal services will be offered today and Tuesday, and the Title and Registra-tion Bureau at Deer Lodge also will be closed. Online services, including vehicle re-registration, will still be available during the office closures. State officials continue to say the new Montana Enhanced Registration and Licensing Information Network, or MERLIN, will revolutionize customer services, but county officials across the state on Friday complained that the system is broken and citizens are upset. Long wait lines for work that used to take minutes is becoming the norm, and the system purchased by the state Department of Justice is the problem, Lewis and Clark County Clerk and Recorder Paulette DeHart said Friday afternoon. But she said the new system, which integrates information from a variety of sources, including law enforcement and the state Motor Vehicle Division, will eventually get on its feet. “I think yes, it's fixable, and they're going to fix it, but it's going to take a while,” DeHart said. “And it seems like we've gone backwards. But they'll get there.” According to Brenda Nordlund, state Motor Vehicle Division administrator, MVD headquarters and informationtechnology staffers will be working on the problems this weekend. Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Mike Murray said the system problems have hampered the county employees' ability to do their jobs. “The end of the month is the busiest time for us, and we've got people waiting two hours for title and registration work,” he said. “Our county strives for customer service, and we're Not able to provide it because of a state system. “We've got people lined up out to the street, and they're all mad at the county, and for once it's not the county's fault,” he said. In a joint letter to Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Attorney General Steve Bullock, Missoula County commissioners and Treasurer Vickie Zeier said their employees were comfortable going into the transition, but repeated problems have arisen because there are too few state employees working to support the system. “Our citizens should not have to endure wait times of up to 2 and 3 hours because our staff is waiting for state personnel to approve a transaction or return a call to resolve a problem,” they wrote. “We felt comfortable going live with MERLIN. However, with so many computer glitches and problems, the staff must rely heavily on the Department of Justice employees to work through the myriad of issues that arise and significantly delay completing transactions. “We sympathize with the employees who are in the trenches taking the phone calls for all 56 counties,” they wrote. “However, such dramatic staffing issues should have been anticipated and ad-dressed.” Yellowstone County Treasurer Max Lenington, in an e-mail to Attorney General Steve Bullock and others Friday, described the software as “totally inadequate and unacceptable.” “We have given this system a 3 0 -day t r ial per iod, and Yellowstone County is unable to keep our heads above water, and we are falling further behind daily under the current MERLIN configuration,” he wrote. “This system has set back 30 years in our public-service efforts here in Yellowstone County.”


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