The Department of Motor Vehicles got help Monday in the form of 64 part-time workers and more armed guards.
the Interim Finance Committee approved DMV Director Dick Kirkland's request to create the part-time positions to relieve crowding at licensing and renewal centers in Las Vegas and Reno.
"We're down from a five- to six-hour high wait six months ago to an hour, hour and a half," he said.
He said the 64 part-time, temporary workers would give him enough people to keep all windows in all DMV centers open. He said they are needed because DMV's daily absenteeism is more than 30 percent and turnover due to stress is 20 percent.
Kirkland said the workload is growing as up to 100,000 new residents move to the state every year, all needing licenses and registrations from DMV.
"In the meantime, 35 to 50 citizens show up at every window every day and if nobody's at that window, they move to the next window," he said. "If we can keep all those windows open, we can come close to keeping up with the growth of the state."
In addition, legislators approved $42,000 to hire a Web-page specialist who can manage and increase the number of services DMV offers through the Internet.
At the same time, the commission voted to help Kirkland with a symptom of that overcrowding - increasing incidents of violence directed at DMV counter workers.
He got permission to spend $102,908 to put armed guards in satellite DMV offices in Reno and Las Vegas to match those protecting the main DMV centers.
Lawmakers approved the plan but said they want to review it during the 2001 session and find a way to avoid armed guards in every public DMV center.
"The move toward armed guards in a public service agency is a failure in public policy," said Sen. Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas. "I think we'd like to charge you with de-escalating the level of tension."
Kirkland agreed, saying the solution is in most cases to improve services and shorten the wait in line so that tempers remain under control.
"If we're successful, I believe we can back away from armed guards at these facilities," he said.