By DAN GUZEWICH Staff writer
@Body.10. no-hyphen:County Clerk Sandra DePerno wants more staff — not less — next year because of the impatient toe-tapping of motorists already waiting in line at her DMV offices.
"The lines are out the door," County Clerk DePerno told the Republican legislative caucus Wednesday as she requested that two positions not be eliminated in 2012 as planned and another one be added. "People are waiting an hour or longer. ... People are irate."
She said that automobile dealers are threatening to take their business elsewhere because of the length of time it takes for transactions to be processed.
DePerno said there were three buckets of transactions waiting to be completed — items that waited while staff is busy serving walk-in customers. There are DMV offices in Rome and Utica.
"We’re supposed to be in the customer service position here," she said. "If you can’t serve the people, they’re not going to come in."
The 2012 budget assumes four DMV positions will eliminated July 1. Two of the slots are being vacated through a retirement and a termination, leaving two possible layoffs. Now, DePerno wants to keep three of the posts.
On Wednesday, the response from Republican lawmakers and County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., who sat in on the caucus meeting, to DePerno’s plea was not necessarily a positive one — even though one related a story about long lines at DMV.
Legislator George J. Joseph, R-10, Westmoreland, wondered why the staffing issue was coming up just three weeks after the legislators adopted next year’s spending plan.
"We weren’t aware then we weren’t keeping up," said Joseph, referring to DePerno’s appearance before the Ways & Means Committee as part of the panel’s budget review.
Legislator Edward P. Welsh, R-21, Utica, suggested DePerno could eliminate the one-day-a-week satellite offices in four communities and instead keep staffers sent out on the road in the full-time offices.
Several other legislators suggested DePerno assess if there might be more efficient ways to process transactions. One asked it part-time people could be brought in during peak times.
"Obviously it is an issue an issue we need to look at," said Picente just before saying it is matter of the expense of adding three positions compared to the additional revenue and profit they would generate.
The county receives 12.7 percent of the fee charged for each DMV transaction.
Picente also noted there are lines at other county offices too.
"We don’t have the benefit or luxury of adding staff every time we have a backlog," he said.
Legislator James M. D’Onofrio, R-15, New Hartford, said the county finds itself in the position of cutting staff in response to fiscal pressures but not services. He suggested that service levels may have to be reduced too.
Picente’s original budget called for closing the Rome DMV office, resulting in the elimination of eight positions, but he changed his mind after the plan encountered opposition. Instead, DePerno was to find savings elsewhere in her budget while cutting only four jobs.
"I kind of wonder if DMV wasn’t an issue in the budget if it would be an issue now," the county executive said.
Alternatives to trips to the Rome or Utica DMV offices include the one-day-a week satellite offices in Boonville, Camden, Sherrill and Bridgewater, DMV locations in other counties, mail, and the internet.
DePerno, a Democrat, also spoke with the Democratic about that situation at the DMV offices.