October 23, 2021

Car-side service at DMV

Cortland office is only one in NY open amid virus

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

A Cortland County Highway Department employee directs cars lined up at the county Department of Motor Vehicles on River Street. There were over 80 cars in line before the office opened its drive-through window at 8:30 a.m.

The man hopped out of his truck and walked up to the four-door sedan parked in front of him and tapped on the window a few times.

The man inside woke up and proceeded to put his car in drive — moving the long line forward.

It was just 8:30 a.m. and the man in the car had fallen asleep waiting in line at the Cortland County Department of Motor Vehicles office on River Street. More than 80 cars were in line by 8:20, something Highway Superintendent Charlie Sudbrink said also happened Thursday, where he’s been providing traffic control.

Cortland County’s office, which has a drive-through, is the only DMV in New York open despite the coronavirus.

“Tuesdays and Thursday are really busy,” Sudbrink said Thursday. That day, 83 people were in line by the time he got there to direct traffic. They were from Cicero, Oswego — all over.

He was there again Tuesday, amazed at how many people continue to show up as he directed cars into one of two lines that looped around the parking lot and back toward the entrance on River Street.

Drive-up DMV

Hours:8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays

  • Dealer transactions (include blank check)
  • Person to person new registrations (include blank check)
  • Registration renewals including vehicles, trailers and boats (include check)
  • License plate surrenders (check or cash)

Payment will be accepted by check only and all transactions that are dropped off will be available for pick up in one week.

By 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the line was so long that cars had reached River Street and were beginning to line along the road.

“We are the only DMV in New York state that is open,” said Cortland County Clerk Elizabeth Larkin, who oversees the DMV. “Other DMVs are processing mail, but no in-person transactions.”

Larkin said she wanted to be able to provide a way for people to ask questions — so she kept the DMV drive-through window open for a limited time for select services.

“The word has gotten out, however, and people are driving from all over the state,” she said.

Larkin said although the DMV employs eight people, only four work each day, limiting the number of transactions they can complete.

“I contemplated working fully staffed, but if one person gets positively tested for the coronavirus, then I would have to shut down,” she said. “Also the work stations are too close to remain 6 feet apart.”

She said one employee had to get tested, but the test came back negative. She said all employees have gloves, masks and disinfecting wipes.

“Procedures are in place to handle the paperwork as safely as possible,” she said. “The DMV is wiped and sanitized every night.”

For people going to the DMV, transactions can be dropped off at the window, but not processed until two days later.

“It is not a perfect situation and I sympathize with those that do not make it through the line by 12:30 p.m., but with only half the staff, I do not want to accept more work than we can process,” Larkin said.