Changes are coming to the Office of Motor Vehicles to reduce wait times, including the addition of express lanes and incentive pay for employees who provide expedited services, the official who oversees the agency said Friday.

State Police Col. Mike Edmonson, who is deputy secretary of the Department of Public Safety, told the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget that the current situation in many locations is “inexcusable” and he laid out “wait time reduction strategies.”

In August, Edmonson’s agency was called on the carpet by legislators who had heard from constituents complaining about lengthy waits — sometimes office closures — as they tried to renew driver’s licenses or obtain car tags.

A Legislative Fiscal Office report earlier this year identified wait times of 1½ hours in some motor vehicle offices, following budget and staff reductions.

The report also said OMV staff had been reduced 23 percent between the 2009 and 2013 budget years — from 739 employees to 568.

State Rep. Jim Fannin, who chairs the budget committee, told Edmonson that the general public “feels like, with the fees they pay for licenses, there are enough dollars and that the offices should have less wait times, better services.” The Jonesboro Republican questioned the reduction in field office staff.

Fannin and other legislators from rural areas complained about constituents going to one-man motor vehicle locations to find them closed because the employee was conducting a driver’s test.

Under a new plan, Edmonson said a roving employee will be dispatched to man the office on days set up for driver’s tests.

“We are within the personnel number we need to be,” Edmonson said, but steps need to be taken to improve the system used.

Edmonson said there will be website modifications aimed at encouraging more customers to use online and mail options for renewals. About 44 percent of those who could do their business by mail or online still choose to go to an office, he said. In addition, people would be able to get information on what they need to do to get their licenses reinstated online, by telephone or as a walk-in so they don’t waste a trip to the office, he said.

Edmonson said the agency will seek Civil Service approval to offer quarterly bonuses for management and front-line staff for reducing wait times. The program would be piloted in large metropolitan areas such as Baton Rouge, New Orleans-Veterans Highway, Lafayette and Livingston.

Other changes include:

  • Establishing express lanes at busy motor vehicle offices
  • Piloting vehicle registration kiosks at the New Orleans-Veterans Highway and Shreveport OMV locations
  • Opening one Saturday a month to help seniors and handicapped residents that might need extra assistance
  • Providing customers with a list of local public tag agents and available services and researching the ability to allow public tag agents to operate in OMV field office locations as an “express option” at vacant counters.

The Office of Motor Vehicles’ busiest office is in Baton Rouge, which, despite staff reductions, averages wait times of 30 minutes or less, Edmonson said.

“It looks like we don’t properly staff at Veterans,” said state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, noting that a constituent spent three hours there last Friday. “It’s just not fair to our constituents.”

Edmonson said the Veterans Highway location in New Orleans is the most “problematic location for wait times.” He sent four Baton Rouge employees, including the OMV commissioner, to help out in New Orleans on Friday.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB.

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