Topeka The state of Kansas will not pay the final 10 percent due on a new $40 million motor vehicle system until the company that installed it improves the program, which has caused long delays and lines at motor vehicle offices across the state since it was introduced in May.
The Kansas Department of Revenue notified the 3M Co. on Thursday that it needs to address problems with the system's response times, availability, breakdowns and maintenance, Donna Shelite, the state director of vehicles, told the Shawnee County Commission.
Treasurer offices in the state's 105 counties stopped handling motor vehicle registrations, driver's license applications and related business for about a week in May while the new system was installed. That caused a massive backlog when offices reopened as employees learned how to use the new system, which replaces technology installed in the mid-1980s.
The state's evaluation period for the system was supposed to end Saturday but the timeline has been changed, revenue department spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda said in an email to The Topeka Capital-Journal.
"While the State continues to work with 3M to improve the new motor vehicle system, we will not accept 3M's system until it operates according to the contractual requirements," Koranda wrote. "If the system does not conform to the contractual requirements, the State will enforce its rights under the contract and compel 3M to deliver the system that has been promised."
While the revenue department insists the delays have been reduced in most counties, Shawnee County officials disagree and have demanded more help from the state.
"I think we got their attention," said Marsha Ralston, deputy treasurer and motor vehicle officer manager for Shawnee County. "Now they can't say it's just Shawnee County."
On Friday, another widespread slowdown of the system prompted the state to extend a grace period for people whose tags were about to expire. The revenue department asked law enforcement not to issue tickets to people whose vehicle tags expire Saturday, including 30-day tags.
Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said in a news release that the slowdown prevented employees from processing as many transactions as usual. Friday was the last workday of the month, which is typically the busiest day for people who wait to renew vehicle tags until the last day of the month.
He said the system has made significant progress and handled more than 281,000 transactions in June but "problems such as the one Friday continue to sporadically interrupt counties' abilities to serve their customers."
At Thursday's meeting, Shawnee County Commissioner Mary Thomas asked Shelite to increase the number of state employees answering calls from counties. Some counties, including Wyandotte, have said they stopped calling the state for help.
"The phone staff is not as bulked up as it should be," Shelite acknowledged. She said the call center gets about 4,000 calls a day.
Counties also have paid large amounts of overtime as employees work nights and weekends to handle the backlog.
In May, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., paid $13,000 of overtime, department director Debbie Pack said. Shawnee County is "blowing its budget" on overtime as well, said Ralston, who said she can't afford to hire people to fill two open jobs.
In Johnson County, Treasurer Thomas Franzen said his county's two motor vehicle offices had nearly caught up with the backlog but employees also have been working a lot of overtime, The Kansas City Star reported Thursday.
Franzen, who was authorized to hire 16 additional people at an annual cost of $833,000, said the 3M software continues to have issues.
"It has intermittent outages," he said. "It also has problems at certain times scanning or printing or finalizing transactions."
Pack and Ralston said the main problem with the system is the number of records that have to be recreated because they were entered incorrectly in the old system.
Shelite told the commission that as many as 73,000 records didn't convert correctly to the new system, mostly because the records had been entered incorrectly in the old system and the new system won't accept bad data.
Riley County Treasurer Eileen King said the state used to fix those errors but that responsibility has been shifted to counties.