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New network to speed up vehicle titles

System should end long backlog of applications

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It sounds like a puzzle your fourth-grader might be asked to solve:

A man applied for a new car title on May 2 and has yet to receive it in the mail. Another man applied for a vehicle title on June 2 and received his four days later.

How can this be?

What your fourth-grader would find out, and what many Utah motorists have come to learn in recent months, is that the state Division of Motor Vehicles has a huge backlog of applications filed before installation of a new computer system began in May.

Depending on which of the 36 DMV offices is involved, vehicle owners who applied for a title months ago still may be waiting to receive it while a neighbor who applied last week might have his in hand.

The $15 million computer network will put an end to those two-month-long waits — the length of time it has taken for many owners to receive their titles over the last few years.

The Rose Park office was converted May 7, followed by offices in South Jordan (May 14), Provo (June 4), Ogden (June 11), Farmington (June 18), Price (June 18), St. George (June 25) and Morgan (June 25). The changeover will be completed in October when the last of the smaller, rural offices are converted.

In locations where the computers are up and running, a title can be obtained in an average of three or four days, according to DMV officials. But anyone who applies for a title at a DMV office before it is computerized will have to wait between 30 and 70 days, or as long as six months if there are problems with the application.

State Tax Commission spokeswoman Janice Gully said the backlog of title and registration applications in the DMV's data processing center should be caught up by the end of the year. Temporary employees have been hired to speed up the process.

"This is a 30-year-old system we're replacing," Gully said. "The population of the state has grown enormously, but also what has grown is the number of vehicles per family . . . and that has put an incredible stress on our system, the way it was designed."

Salt Lake City resident Gil Scharffs won't miss the old system. Scharffs bought a new Toyota Camry on May 2, six days before the Rose Park office was connected to the computer system. Not long afterward, he decided to get married.

"My wife had a car and I've got a truck so I wanted to sell my car. We didn't want to have three vehicles," he said.

Scharffs placed a classified ad and found a buyer, but couldn't close the deal because he didn't have the title. He made several inquiries at the DMV and was told he'd have to wait, he said. It was not until he called Gov. Mike Leavitt's office, twice, that he managed to get somewhere.

Scharffs said he received a phone call last Friday assuring him the title would be in his hands by the end of the week. As of Thursday, it had not arrived.

His buyers, thankfully, are patient folks.

"Most people would have thrown their hands up in disgust, but these people have been looking for this particular car, for a good deal, for a year and a half," Scharffs said. "I feel very fortunate because I could have lost the sale with all the delays. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed."

Gully said the DMV is more than willing to help out people like Scharffs who find themselves in unusual situations.

"We did have one employee who basically was telling people that they'd have to wait," Gully said. "We've already heard about that and corrected that."

Gully said anyone who has yet to receive a title but needs it in a hurry can make a special request by calling the DMV at 297-7780 in Salt Lake County or 1-800-DMV-UTAH statewide.

E-MAIL: zman@desnews.com