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Relief in the works for Kootenai County DMV’s long, long waits for driver’s licenses

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 6, 2017

The Drivers Licensing office, photographed Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Coeur d’Alene, is located in the lower level of the Kootenai County administrative facility and is the only one in Kootenai County. It has some of the longest wait times in Idaho. A new office will open in Post Falls in the spring. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Drivers Licensing office, photographed Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Coeur d’Alene, is located in the lower level of the Kootenai County administrative facility and is the only one in Kootenai County. It has some of the longest wait times in Idaho. A new office will open in Post Falls in the spring. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

BOISE – Long wait times at the only driver’s license office in Kootenai County have prompted the county and state to open a second location later this year.

“The wait times are often three hours,” said Alan Frew, state motor vehicle administrator for the Idaho Transportation Department. “They have people lining up about an hour before they open. It’s probably the longest wait time in the state.”

Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger has been urging county commissioners to open a second location for several years.

Wolfinger said he was gratified when commissioners in August granted his budget request. He’d asked for four more staffers for the driver’s license office; they granted two. With that, he said, “We can’t open both offices five days a week. But we’ll open four days a week, 10 hours a day.”

The new office will be on Railroad Avenue in Post Falls, the current location of a vehicle registration office. That office will move to the former Odd Fellows building nearby that the county recently acquired and is remodeling. Wolfinger said plans still are being finalized, but they tentatively call for the Coeur d’Alene office, at the main county office complex on Government Way, to be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and the new Post Falls location to be open the same hours Tuesday through Friday.

Kootenai County Commissioner Chris Filios said, “I think it’s desperately needed. … We’re responding to our residents’ needs – that’s precisely where we’re headed with this. I wish we could have done it sooner.”

The budget request for next year for the Idaho Transportation Department includes $20,900 for equipment, supplies and connectivity for a second driver’s license office in Kootenai County; the county is responsible for the remaining costs, including staffing. The ITD budget request was presented to lawmakers in Boise on Monday; they’ll vote on it in the coming weeks.

Wolfinger said many years ago, Kootenai County had two locations for driver’s licenses, but it didn’t have the staff to keep operating both.

Now, he said, the lone office is averaging between 230 and 240 transactions a day. “We get a ton of complaints,” he said. “The staff does a great job – the complaints are just the wait time.”

Wolfinger said the county has installed a web cam at the current driver’s license office, so people who’ve taken a number can do other errands and watch remotely on their phones to see when their wait times are almost up. A similar system will be installed at the new location, he said.

Filios said the new driver’s license office is tentatively scheduled to open Aug. 16, and the new Post Falls vehicle registration office on June 30.

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