License bureau's move as part of Kandiyohi County redesign creates more efficiency
WILLMAR — The Kandiyohi County License Bureau made a short move across the hall last week.
Following completion of a remodeling project at the county's downtown Willmar office building, the local Driver and Vehicle Services bureau moved from the far side of the building against a brick wall to a new area that features a bank of windows and easy access to two outside doors.
Although the relocation was short, the move has resulted in more efficient service for customers and it clears the way for additional changes as the county moves literal and virtual walls in its restructuring of departments, staff and the delivery of service.
Since participating last year in an extensive review of its operational structure, the county has started to implement some changes, including the move of the license bureau.
The new location — which is where the University of Minnesota Extension Service had previously been housed — has given the staff needed space for supplies that helps speed up customer service, said Deb Mickle, supervisor of the Kandiyohi County License Bureau.
Workers now have their own station, phone, computer, cash drawer and other materials.
At the old office they had to share space and supplies and "go back and forth and back and forth," said Mickle. "Now they have their own space, so it makes it more efficient for us and for the customer."
The nice view out the windows to Fourth and Benson in downtown Willmar doesn't hurt either, as customers wait in line. The close access to outside doors makes the office location "a little more friendly for the public," she said.
Proximity to the doors, and the eventual addition of a roll-down gate that will make the rest of the building secure, means the county's license bureau will start offering after-hours service in the near future.
A start-up date for that added service has not been decided, but Mickle predicts it could happen yet this year.
That kind of service is needed to make it easier for residents to do business, like get license tabs and renew a driver's license, said County Administrator Larry Kleindl.
During the move, the staff realized they could improve customer service by changing how they processed requests for driver's licenses. Instead of going to a specific area for a license, customers will now begin the process at the first available window.
"I'm really proud of my staff about this," said Kleindl. "They modified how they deal with customers."
Kleindl said county employees' creativity and ideas for improving delivery of services has blossomed in numerous departments during the reorganizational process.
County employees in the Health and Human Services Building have been meeting for months to explore opportunities and identify ways to get over potential roadblocks to merging departments, like family services and public health.
"This whole redesign is about working together," said Kleindl. "Our employees are coming up with creative ways of looking at things differently."
In the license bureau project, the county used maintenance staff and sentence-to-service crews to gut the office space. Local businesses were used for the construction, said Kleindl.
Service was not disrupted as the move was made before and after regular office hours.
Mickle said the move went smoothly and other than a few minor adjustments, the staff has settled into the new digs and customers are quickly learning where to go.
More signage will be added as the remodeling project continues in the building.
The next step is to remodel the old license bureau area into an election space for processing votes and for conducting early voting.
Departments that are currently housed in the basement of the building will eventually be moved to the main floor, which will also undergo some other minor remodeling that includes upgrading the heating and air handling system.
A word about the wheelage tax
WILLMAR — When Kandiyohi County's new $10 motor vehicle wheelage tax goes into effect Jan. 1, county residents need to know they won't escape it by going to another county to purchase vehicle tabs.
Likewise, residents from other counties who come to Willmar won't be charged the wheelage tax if their county has not taken action to implement the tax.
"It goes by the county of residence, not the county where you buy your tabs or vehicle," said Deb Mickle, supervisor for the Kandiyohi County License Bureau.
There has been some confusion about the tax, said Mickle.
"If your county didn't vote for it, we won't charge it," she said.
In this region, the $10 tax on motor vehicle license tabs will be charged to residents of Kandiyohi, Swift, Renville and Lac qui Parle counties.
The tax will not be implemented in Meeker, Chippewa and Yellow Medicine counties.
County boards of commissioners voted on whether or not to implement the tax after the Legislature gave counties the option to do so this spring.