Perhaps unsurprisingly, customer service at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles was among the issues raised by senators at Friday’s budget hearing on St. Croix, while vandalism posed problems for the Housing Parks and Recreation Department.
“The customer service delivered by the bureau leaves a lot to be desired,” the Finance Committee’s Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly said of the Motor Vehicle Bureau.
She pointed out that it’s the bureau’s customers who pay the salaries of its workers. She urged Director Jerris Browne to “dig and find the problem.”
Sen. Ronald Russell expressed similar concerns, particularly with what he saw as Browne’s interpretation of the documents required for a person to renew a driver’s license.
“You read the rules restrictively. I read them differently,” Russell said.
Browne said that federal Real ID Act calls for people to prove who they are when getting or renewing their drivers’ licenses. They can use a Social Security card, but Russell repeatedly pointed out that the people have Social Security numbers on their driver’s license. However, Browne said that some of those drivers’ licenses date to the time when the Police Department issued them, and his staff has no way to verify what the drivers presented to the Police Department.
According to the bureau’s manager of information systems, Gregory Christian, and Browne, a computerized system is in the works. Once the system is on line, the bureau will be able to issued identification cards for non-drivers. Additionally, drivers’ licenses will renewable on line.
Christian said that drivers will still have to visit the bureau every 10 years to get their photos taken because people’s faces change over that period of time.
“You’re being diplomatic. It means you’re getting older,” Sen. Sammuel Sanes said.
Browne was at the Finance Committee to defend his $3.5 million 2012 budget, a decrease of 24 percent over the 2011 budget. Browne said he could live with that figure.
In discussing the Housing, Parks and Recreation budget, Sanes said that thousands of dollars are wasted because vandals steal and trash the territory’s parks.
“The wanton destruction and theft spoils it for everybody,” Sanes said.
He listed toilets, soap dispensers and light bulbs on the list, and added that he’s heard about a bridge that weighs hundreds of pounds being stolen from a nature trail.
Housing, Parks and Recreation Commissioner St. Claire N. Williams said he’s received inquiries as to why restrooms are not open late, but said making the repairs when the restrooms are vandalized poses serious problems for his department.
Williams and his staff were at the Legislature building on St. Croix to defend his $7.4 million budget, a decrease of 9.2 percent over last year.
“There will be serious challenges,” he said.
Some of that challenge will come in replacing the dozen people in his department that plan to retire shortly.
This later prompted Sen. Carlton Dowe, who chaired the meeting, to point out that this department as well as others need to develop succession plans.
“I’m telling everybody, don’t tell me you don’t have nobody to do the job,” Dowe said.
Dowe pointed out that bringing retired workers back on contracts wasn’t the solution to the problem.
“Let’s train and develop people,” he said.
In discussing Housing, Parks and Recreation projects, Williams said he expects the Coki Point rehabilitation to be done by mid-September.