January 10, 2000
Car owners, most with expired tabs, created long lines last week at the Woodinville licensing agency.
by Marshall Haley, staff reporter
WOODINVILLE--One Woodinville motor home owner might want to take Tim Eyman on a trip to Mexico this winter, after his tab fee dropped from $3,689 to $54.
"Now they can take a vacation, not just grill hot dogs on the driveway," quipped Juanita Behar of the Woodinville Licensing Agency.
During a 20-minute span outside the Woodinville licensing agency on Monday, Jan. 3, 49 of the 71 license tab renewal customers in line had December tabs. November renewals were next at 12, 3 waited since October, and only 7 had January appointments. Some with December tabs were asked why they didn't come later in the week, since the State Patrol and King County Sheriff's Office had announced a grace period until Jan. 10.
"We weren't sure how many towns would honor that, so we didn't want to take a chance driving with them," said Leonora Hughes of Woodinville. Some noted that Bothell had not adopted the policy, while others didn't know Woodinville police were also King County officers.
"Most people will probably come after work," said Behar last Monday. "That's why we're staying open until 8 p.m., so people don't have to wait in line their whole lunch hour. We're pleased with everyone's attitude; they've been pretty upbeat."
Woodinville health therapist Elizabeth Czhubirka said customer irritation, which King County police expected when they posted officers at all license offices, did not manifest itself in Woodinville. She said she waited from 8-9:30 to get to the counter, but waited less than two minutes to get tabs for two cars after getting there. She paid $115 for a 1999 Ford Ranger that would have cost $470 in December.
"People were not complaining, even though we were really cold," said Czhubirka. "Everybody was just hanging out, talking with their neighbors. I was really impressed by the Farmers Life insurance agent who walked down the line several times, passing out trays of coffee. Carol from Aroma Therapy, two doors from the license agency, passed out cookies and let people come in to get warm and use her bathroom. The deputy was also very helpful by helping us snake the line, inside the office, so more people could get in and warm up." The agency also supplied cocoa and cookies outside.
Behar, who entered fleet vehicles applications in the quieter back room from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. that day, got word from the state at 12:40 to stop entering applications until 2:30. The system was close to crashing. Fleets are commercial vehicles such as semis and other delivery vehicles. Behar said she had already entered six fleets, which average around 100 vehicles each, but only two had been in "virtual line" in time to get printed by 11:30. Regulations require a 24-hour turnaround on the applications, since trucks can't operate in states without current tabs.
"I can process them today, but they might not get printed until tomorrow," said Behar. "All fleet licenses expire in December, and pretty much every fleet in the state waited, so we expected this overload. Every (licensing) office in the state is lining up electronically to get processed by the Olympia staff, who are doing a great job. I'm expecting the UPS fleet order from New Jersey, where all their trucks are leased. Even after 8:00, we'll run FedEx orders for the fleets. I can access the system until 9 p.m., which I'm sure I will be doing. Then it's back here tomorrow at 6 a.m."
Behar said the agency staff had all taken days off during the unusually slow December to prepare for the January overload. During the week's extended business hours of 6 a.m.-8 p.m., the agency processed over 1,000 individual tabs--not counting several hundred fleet transactions--on both Monday and Tuesday. Their beefed-up staff worked from 6 a.m to 10 p.m.
"Each day, we had people waiting in line before we got here at six," said Anita Marcelo. "We're just pleased people have been so cooperative; they seem happy about saving money. We've been online the whole time, with very few glitches." On Tuesday, they shipped three large envelopes of receipts to the county, rather than the usual single envelope, said Marcelo.
Louise Girard of Worthington Licensing in downtown Bothell said she and her only co-worker were so swamped on Monday through Wednesday that they didn't have time to tally their customers. Canyon Park Licensing also didn't have an exact count, and only said "in the thousands." They did report that things finally slowed down enough by Thursday that most of the overworked crew went home by 3:30 for a well-deserved rest.
Olympia reported a record 133,562 transactions for Monday. The old record was about 60,000 and the average daily total is about 30,000.