Overwhelmed by phone calls, emails and issues with a new computer system, Latah County Department of Motor Vehicles officials are stressing patience to customers.

“We just want to serve our people,” said Carla Bartlett, vehicle licensing supervisor. “We just want to get them taken care of and it’s harder to do if people aren’t patient.”

Bartlett has been a Latah County DMV employee since 1988 except for a four-year hiatus.

“This is definitely the hardest it’s been on the DMV,” she said.

The DMV, which handles vehicle titles and registrations, and Driver’s Licensing offices are operating by appointment only because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Latah County Sheriff’s Officer Lt. Doug Anderson, who handles support services for Driver’s Licensing and other sheriff’s office departments, said the increased call load for DMV services is a result of “COVID impatience” and customers adjusting to handling vehicle business remotely.

Anderson said customers are accustomed to taking care of business in person at the Driver’s Licensing and DMV offices.

He said the Driver’s Licensing Office is maintaining besides being slightly shorthanded, but said the DMV has been overwhelmed because it handles at least three times as many customers as Driver’s Licensing.

“We’re still pushing through a lot of paperwork, getting a lot of people taken care of, but our phones are ringing off the hook,” Bartlett said of the DMV.

She estimated her office receives 200 phone calls per day from customers mostly asking about registration renewals and registering vehicles. Bartlett said it reached the point where employees cannot handle the call volume, so many calls go to voicemail. There were 63 voicemails on a phone Tuesday afternoon.

Bartlett said the office phones’ voicemail capacities doubled to accommodate the increased messages customers leave, but the voicemail boxes would still fill up several times per day.

“There’s a lot of people that need our service,s and we’re trying to do it fairly,” Bartlett said. “We’re trying to return calls in the order that they’re received and schedule appointments in the order that they’re received and also try to accommodate the customer’s schedule.”

The delay in DMV employees returning calls leads to impatient customers who call or email back several times, she said.

Bartlett said if DMV services cannot be done by mail, phone or online, customers should only call and leave a voicemail or email one time and an employee will return their call in three business days. She said it could be one or two weeks before they get an appointment.

“People just don’t understand that they’re not next in line just because they got us on the phone,” Bartlett said. “There’s hundreds of people ahead of them.”

Bartlett said an employee from the Latah County Assessor’s Office was brought in to listen to voicemails and schedule appointments.

The delay in taking care of customers can also be blamed on issues with a vehicle registration and titling computer system called GEM that the Idaho Transportation Department rolled out statewide in October at county DMV offices.

“It’s really increased the transaction times dramatically,” said Bartlett, noting she does not see GEM issues going away in the foreseeable future.

To schedule a DMV appointment, call (208) 883-7211 and dial “2,” or email dmv@latah.id.us.

Registration renewals are processed by mail, online or drop box only, according to a Latah County news release. Online renewals have the quickest turn-around time.

The release said to allow as many as three weeks for delivery of mail-in or drop-box renewals. The mailing address for the Latah County DMV is 200 S. Almon St. Ste. 101 Moscow, ID 83843. The drop box is located at the south end of the building.

Driver’s Licensing Office customers can make appointments or get on a waitlist online by visiting www.latah.id.us and selecting “Driver Licensing” under the “Departments” tab.

If unable to use the online appointment system, call the Driver’s Licensing Office at (208) 883-7216 and dial “1,” and an employee will assist in making an appointment or getting on the waitlist, the release said.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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