Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

'It’s just crazy': MNLARS delays, difficulties persist

Rep. Paul Torkelson asked questions of Minnesota commissioners Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, during a hearing about problems with the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — Minnesota officials are wading through a backlog of vehicle license and title applications which has fueled extended wait times for drivers, they told lawmakers on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

The update came almost a year and a half after the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System launched, spurring delays and added difficulties in getting driver's licenses and vehicle registration tabs.

Now, problems are being addressed, Minnesota IT Services Commissioner Johanna Clyborne told the MNLARS Steering Committee, but progress has been slow-moving.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Clyborne said.

MNLARS employees have received more than 32,000 applications for Real IDs this year and have mailed out just over a third, said Dawn Olson, Driver and Vehicle Services Director. Olson said she hopes the remainder will be mailed out by the first week in January.

MNLARS call and email response rates have improved, she said. Between March and May of this year, MLARS call center agents took 27.5 percent of calls. That figure improved between September and November when 58.6 percent of calls were accepted.

Lawmakers on the committee expressed frustration at the lack of meaningful improvement in wait times and confusion in navigating the new system.

“We have to figure out how we can continue like this," Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said, "it’s just crazy”

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Ramona Dohman said MNLARS employees were stretched thin as they were forced to switch from one role to another to cover phones or emails or license and title applications.

"Driver and Vehicle Services is able to triage to bring down turnaround times momentarily, but we just can't get ahead," Dohman said.

The system needs more money to bring on employees to fill holes in service, she said. Part-time employees were brought on to help, but with frequent position shifting and training, shortages still exist.

But lawmakers weren't eager to appropriate more funding to MNLARS, especially after footing the initial $93 million bill in 2017 and an additional $9 million in May.

“It’s almost like an endless request for money that I see coming over the MNLARS project," Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said. "Where is all this money going to come from?"

Governor-elect Tim Walz is set to put forth his budget proposal in late February.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com.

randomness