WILLMAR — Customers still often have to wait in line to transact business at the Kandiyohi County Office Building but the wait is more comfortable these days, now that a summer-long renovation is complete.

The project created a waiting area where people can sit down until it's their turn at the counter. Another transaction window for county business also was added and the information counter was expanded to improve service to the public.

It has been a welcome change, said Andy Thorson, facility maintenance manager. "I've heard nothing but good things," he said.

There's always considerable traffic at the County Office Building, where key functions such as the License Bureau, county auditor's office, county recorder and county assessor's offices and environmental services are located.

But lines for the License Bureau have increased since the introduction two years ago of a new statewide system, MNLARS, for motor vehicle transactions. The new system shifted much of the workload to local license bureaus, leading to longer lines and longer waits, especially at peak times.

The rollout last year of the enhanced Minnesota driver’s license and Real ID has added to wait times.

As early voting expands and grows in popularity, county officials anticipate more traffic during election years as well.

The renovation project partially closed off a stairway and opened up more than 300 square feet, turning the new space into a waiting area furnished with plenty of chairs for customers to wait in comfort. A queuing system also was installed to help manage lines at the License Bureau.

"Overall it went really well," Thorson said of the project. The improvement in the customer experience "is really going to be appreciated," he said.

"It's a very good big step to provide better customer service," agreed County Commissioner Corky Berg.

The project was completed for about $99,000, including the purchase of furniture and heating, ventilation and air conditioning work.