PUEBLO — Pueblo's Department of Motor Vehicle is still feeling the effects of the pandemic a full year after it began, struggling to keep up with the high demand of services.
“Each challenge has set us back and then it’s almost impossible for us to catch up, because we find another challenge that’s coming our way," said County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz.
Although the department is implementing tactics to try and fast-track the long list of people in need of their services, many people in Pueblo are growing frustrated with the wait times.
“People are trying to get along... with this COVID. We all know that it’s going to take time, but there are things that the county can do to help it I believe," said James Graves, who recently purchased a new truck and trailer.
Graves wife has an autoimmune illness. The couple had plans of traveling out of state during the summer to see family, which they haven't been able to do since before the pandemic began. Graves up-sized in vehicles, so his wife could be more comfortable. However, the temporary tags on Graves' new truck and trailer expired on April 2nd, and the DMV cannot fit him in for an appointment until June 3rd.
“I was upset, and I just thought that that’s not the way to handle things and there’s got to be a smoother, more efficient way to take care of the public," said Graves.
The department provided News5 with a list of appointments from just one day, proving that they are servicing roughly 250 people a day. Ortiz also says the DMV staff is working "mandatory overtime".
“Last week we worked from 8:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to try and catch up on the back log. We're currently on February 28th... for mortgage mail... that we received on February 28th, so we're more than a month behind.”
Like all businesses, the DMV has faced a series of problems as a result of the pandemic. Currently, the department is understaffed and in the process of hiring. Right now only 50% of the DMV's employees can come to work because of the building's COVID-19 mandates, and the county courthouse is the department's only location for servicing all of Pueblo and Pueblo West.
Ortiz says often times, people upset about the backlog compare the department to surrounding counties.
"Obviously, we are very different than Fremont county... so you can't really compare counties... El Paso county has 5 satellite offices. And they have more space in their government offices to do social distancing."
If you're running into problems because of the department's backlog, here's what you need to know:
The DMV says they are communicating with the Pueblo Police department frequently to try and prevent anyone with expired tags in recent months from getting a ticket. However, if your tags expired a year ago, there won't be any leeway. Plus, if you have expired tags and leave Pueblo County, there is nothing the department or PPD can do to help you if you are pulled over as a result of your tags.
Pueblo County is waiving all late fees for registration, so Graves will not be charged a late fee when he comes to register.
The DMV recommends that if you are planning on purchasing a car, which many people did after receiving stimulus checks, you should book your appointment the day you purchase your vehicle. The DMV says you should not wait until your temporary tags on the new vehicle are close to expiring.
The county is in the process of building a drive-through and more kiosks in Pueblo and Pueblo West to service renewals.