One thing that is universally loathed about going to the local DMV is long waits in line. Throw a global pandemic into the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Or, at least, that is what would be expected. According to Limestone County License Commissioner Joseph Cannon, things at the Clinton Street Courthouse Annex are running pretty smoothly.
He said his office had a “huge backlog” of work when the license office reopened May 11, but now visitors can expect a wait of 90 minutes or fewer.
“Since we reopened, we have had nine days where the wait was over an hour,” Cannon said. “That is the threshold we are trying not to go past. We have never gone past an hour-and-a-half wait since we reopened. People might say they waited longer, but I have looked at the statistics.”
Cannon said not much has changed for customers during the pandemic, other than having to wear facial coverings and maintain at least 6 feet of distance between each other.
In fact, a couple of changes that have been necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic have actually sped things up, he said.
Cannon said people are not using the self-service kiosk right now. He said his office would run into the problem of visitors not knowing what number to get because they weren't sure which office they needed, so they would end up at the help desk.
“So many people, especially guys, tend to push the first thing we see, which is tag renewal,” he said. “If it is an out-of-state purchase, it would cause us to have to transfer them to a different office. Things like that are avoided right now, so we are able to keep the flow of traffic a lot faster. I will be out handing tickets to customers when we are busy because I want (the clerks) to be working with customers.”
Another change can be seen without even entering the building. Cannon said the Limestone County Emergency Management Agency loaned the annex its mobile disaster command center to aid visitors who only need a simple license renewal, which allows them to come and go quickly.
“As long as everyone follows directions, even with a line, it flies,” Cannon said. “It has been a real game-changer for us. We man it with two clerks, and even if there are 20 people in line, they can be done in 10 minutes. That's 20 people not inside clogging up the line.”
Cannon likened working at the license office to the movie “Groundhog Day.” He said every day is different, but the same issues keep popping up.
“We observe where our miscues are and try to work on them,” he said. “We do a bunch of little things people don't notice to make things run as smooth as possible.”
For example, Cannon said he has actually decreased and simplified the amount of signage in the license office to help keep things simple for visitors. While some issues and long waits still arise, he said 90% of the people he sees are appreciative of everyone's efforts at the annex. Cannon said he is proud of the efforts of his employees to keep things running well.
He said the lunch hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. are “pretty vulnerable” times given staff taking breaks and visitors coming in on theirs. He advised people visiting to come to the office in the early morning or late afternoon if they can.
“We are rocking and rolling at those times,” Cannon said.
The license office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.