2 02 2009

                                                                                                            Trenton N.J.-mvcSharon Harrington will always remember the long snaking lines outside the state Motor Vehicle Commission’s regional service center in Wayne after non-citizens with temporary visas were restricted to getting driver’s licenses only at a handful of locations.

The commission, which Harrington heads, responded four years ago by spreading that task to a bunch of its agencies around the state. The result: shorter lines and happier customersBuilding on that idea, the commission plans to close its four regional service centers in Wayne, Trenton, Eatontown and West Deptford starting next month and distribute the operations among its 43 local agencies. It’s a move officials said should save the state money and help all New Jersey drivers.

“It’s an opportunity to actually do our business differently and serve our customers better,” Harrington said. “We’re decentralizing. We’re going to the customers.”

Established nearly 20 years ago, regional service centers were once considered a convenience to drivers who until that time could only go to the motor vehicle office in Trenton to restore their driver’s license, pay surcharges and take care of the more complicated, time-consuming services. The local agencies at that time could only handle basic services such as issuing licenses and registrations.

But the centers couldn’t keep up with the increasing number of New Jersey drivers who found themselves still having to go long distances. It also seemed absurd that a driver who suddenly learned at a motor vehicle agency that his license was suspended would then be expected to travel to one of those regional centers — and possibly drive illegally to get there, Harrington said.

Plans to close the four regional facilities have been in the works for the past two years. First up will be the busiest one: the Wayne regional center, which served 131,346 customers last year. Prompted by a dispute over the lease for the center’s building on Route 23, the facility will close on March 6.

The services will immediately be handled at the nearby motor vehicle agencies in Bayonne, Newton and East Orange. The agencies in Newark, Paterson and Wayne’s Route 46 facility — which will remain open — will begin handling those services on March 16.

Harrington said closing the Route 23 facility will save the commission the $800,000 annual lease payment.

All 66 employees at the Wayne regional center will be moved to the local agencies, said Daniel Sullivan, assistant chief administrator for agency services.

He said the commission would have preferred to start with closing one of the smaller centers, like Eatontown, which handled slightly more than 55,000 customers last year.

“We’re going to look at the Wayne experience. We think it’s going to be successful,” he said. “If the lease situation was different, we wouldn’t have started with the busiest one.”

By the end of the year, all the regional centers should be closed and their services divided among the motor vehicle agencies in their respective areas, Sullivan said.

The commission was also hampered from making the change sooner because of its outdated computer system, Harrington said. It wasn’t until last year that the agencies started taking credit cards.

“They’ll get a much quicker turn-around time,” Sullivan said. “It’s certainly going to be much more efficient and helpful to the drivers.”

 

(News Source: Nj.com)

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