Idaho’s sheriffs are slugging it out with state transportation officials over computer blackouts at driver’s license offices. These outages have left residents waiting hours or days to renew their license.
Idaho DMV Administrator Alberto Gonzalez acknowledged at a press conference Tuesday that things haven’t gone smoothly at driver’s license offices over the past several months.
“The level of service that’s been affecting our citizens, the sheriff’s offices, their staff and ITD is completely unacceptable,” Gonzalez says.
So far this year, software crashes have deadlocked driver’s license offices across the state for at least 40 cumulative hours. When the system is operational, it’s taken sometimes hours to process everyday transactions.
Idaho is one of only two states where county sheriffs are responsible for overseeing the operations of driver’s license offices. The state transportation department, however, still chooses the types of software the sheriff’s offices will use.
The Idaho State Sheriff’s Association blames a recent software upgrade for extending wait times.
In a letter sent to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, the group says it wants ITD to resume control over driver’s license offices – something that it hasn’t staffed for a couple of decades, according to Gonzalez.
“As Sheriff, and as a taxpayer, I am furious the State of Idaho has poured millions of dollars into systems that are poorly designed and implemented without the benefit of beta testing sites to address the potential and real issues with these critically important systems,” wrote ISA President and Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue.
Ada County Sheriff Stephen Bartlett says long wait times are problematic, but it’s also creating a public safety issue.
“When our officers in the field run information it’s not giving us current, accurate data if somebody has just renewed a driver’s license, if somebody has a license that’s potentially suspended or revoked,” Bartlett says. “We don’t have that information.”
In a statement, Otter says he’s going to bring these groups together to work out these kinks.
“The recent upgrades that ITD installed to replace an outdated 30 year old mainframe were vital not only for the operational integrity of our system but also to ensure that the private information of our citizens remains safe and secure. However, it is obvious the system is not yet fully functional for a variety of reasons and that is causing problems and frustration around our state,” Otter says.
ITD inked a five-year contract in 2016 with Netherlands-based software company Gemalto worth nearly $1 million annually, according to the Idaho Press. State officials are able to fine Gemalto up to $384.84 for each hour of technical difficulties, but have so far chosen not to do so.
“Now that the outages have just persisted we know that it’s time to just figure out an Idaho solution and I believe we have that in place,” Gonzalez says.
He didn’t say whether that would involve terminating the contract or if state taxpayers could be on the hook for any kind of severance fees.
Gonzalez says ITD should have a fix to the problem by Thursday, but didn’t elaborate on what exactly it would look like. An ITD spokesperson didn’t immediately return a request for clarification.
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