PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Getting a driver's license or renewing a current license in Palm Beach County, particularly at the new Delray Beach office? Prepare to wait.
"Miserable," said retired Delray Beach developer Sig Dubrow, summing up his experience recently after spending about three hours of his 84th birthday to renew his license. "I don't know why it should take so long. I just think the system needs a lot of work."
According to county tax collector Anne Gannon, whose office has been taking over the duties of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for the past year. "Three to four hours is routine" for a visit to the office at 501 S. Congress Ave.
Gannon says she is as frustrated as her customers by the excessive waiting times, but that the addition of driver's license services to the other duties of the tax collector, along with limited staffing and office space, has swamped the agency.
The crush of customers at the Delray Beach location has been made worse by the closing of the tax collector's Lantana office for remodeling. That office is scheduled to reopen with four additional work stations on Feb. 22, Gannon said.
Gannon said the county is currently hiring about 25 staffers to cope with increased traffic. But she warned that long waits will likely continue.
"I tell people they need to be patient. This is not something we can change at this time," said Gannon.
A note on the Tax Collector's Office website warns that driver's license services can be suspended when the number of customers waiting exceeds the ability of the staff to process their applications that same day.
And that happens often, said Gannon.
Gabriel Basile, 25, who moved to Delray Beach recently from Indiana, said he stood in line for 20 minutes just to pick up a free copy of the Florida Driver's Handbook, the study guide. "When I come back to get my license, I'll probably have to do some meditating," he said.
Gannon said that some driver's license customers are residents of Broward and Miami-Dade counties who come north thinking that wait times are shorter. Not true, said Gannon, especially at the South County office.
Christina Nielsen, 44, of Boynton Beach, arrived at the Congress Avenue office at 9:45 a.m, received a number and then joined dozens of others who were waiting both inside and outside the office. Nielsen's number was 201.
Nearly three hours later, at 12:30 p.m., number 174 was called. "Now I'm worried that I won't get out of here in time to pick up the kids at school at 2:15," said Nielsen, a sales representative for an Ohio steel manufacturer. "I had no idea it would take this long."
Gannon said that she hears customer complaints daily.
"There is a learning curve here," she said."But long term, this is best thing for our constituents, because our offices will be convenient for one-stop shopping."
The Tax Collector's Office now runs seven of the nine Palm Beach County offices that offer driver's license services, part of a statewide transition that began in 1996 in Sarasota County.
Eventually, tax collectors in 64 of Florida's 67 counties will provide most driver's license services in a plan formed after several years of budget reductions had closed a number of state-operated offices.
Only Broward, Miami-Dade and Volusia counties, which have appointed rather than elected tax collectors, are excluded from the transition plan.
In Broward County, where wait times are among the highest in Florida, DMV officials are trying to speed up service at its eight locations by adding staff and designating a "pit boss" to keep examiners working and the lines moving.
The so-called "pit boss" – or "pit bull" as some employees call it — is one of several ideas to emerge from what the DMV called a customer service initiative launched last year in Miami-Dade County, long the busiest region in the state.
But as waiting times for customers with appointments have dropped in Miami-Dade – to an average of just over 17 minutes during the three months ending in December – the time it takes for Broward County customers to come face-to-face with an examiner has grown to an average of more than 34 minutes.
"People with an appointment don't expect to wait more than 30 minutes," said department spokeswoman Courtney Heidelberg. "We certainly don't want to torture our customers. And nobody wants to stand in line."
For more information, see http://www.taxcollectorpbc.com or email@example.com">http://www.gathergoget.com.
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