Eastern New Mexico residents waiting for a new, expanded motor vehicle department in Clovis, touted by state officials two years ago, are going to have to resort to a standard MVD tradition.
They’ll have to wait.
S.U. Mahesh, a spokesperson for the state Taxation and Revenue Department, said the expansion to a 4,000-square-foot facility is on hold while the department looks to obtain the remaining $300,000 it needs through a capital outlay improvement request. The department has $400,000 set aside for the project.
While the wait for an expansion that former Department Secretary Rick Homas said was moving at “full speed” in December 2009 has now slowed to a crawl, local customers are becoming frustrated at the speed of simply renewing a license or registration at offices in Clovis and Portales.
From the 2011 fiscal year — Oct. 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2011 — the average wait time at the Clovis MVD office was 44:30. In Portales, that same wait was 27:30, according to Mahesh. The state’s goal wait time is 15 minutes.
The wait was longer in the last week of September for Marilyn Rigsby of Portales, who tried to renew registration on a camper before the holiday weekend.
Rigsby, a retired teacher, said she got her ticket number at 3:43 p.m., but found every seat taken in the small office. She decided to go to her car parked a few feet away, because it was hot outside and she didn’t want to get her outfit dirty from sitting on the sidewalk.
She was told the employees had locked the door at 4 p.m., and got into the office a few minutes after when another customer exited. Rigsby stayed until 4:58 p.m., when she said she was the only person left in the building, and was still not served.
She did not return, and is now waiting for the state to mail her registration sticker after she handled her business online.
“I got to thinking about how other businesses in town stay open late if you’re still shopping,” Rigsby said. “It’s my taxpayer money that pays their salary, and they treat you like that?
“Had there been a place to sit down, I would have been sitting inside to begin with.”
An employee who answered the phone at the Portales MVD office said there was currently no manager, and none of the employees would want to answer specific allegations on behalf of the office.
Mahesh was not aware of specific instances, but said complaints can be made to the MVD Director's Office in Santa Fe at (505) 827-2296.
Mahesh said the process of issuing driver’s licenses to foreign nationals, a practice Gov. Susana Martinez would like to end, could be contributing to the delay.
He said the state does not do walk-up licenses for foreign nationals, and requires an appointment made by phone. The state also tracks calls to see if the same phone number is used to make numerous reservations.
“The Portales MVD has 14 FN appointments a week,” Mahesh said. “The Clovis MVD has a total of 11 appointments a week. These appointments are for those foreign nationals who are receiving their licenses for the first time. Those processing foreign national driver’s license appointments would, of course, be free to assist other customers if New Mexico did not grant licenses to illegal immigrants. Processing a single foreign national driver’s license application could take in excess of 30 minutes to an hour.”
In 2003, Gov. Bill Richardson signed a law allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, in hopes the move would allow more drivers to buy car insurance and lower liability costs.
The Clovis office has eight employees and two current vacancies, while the Portales office has three employees with one vacancy and a position deleted during Richardson’s administration.