Cortland resident Mikhail Saxton has been anxiously waiting to register the 2006 BMW that he bought a few weeks ago in Geneva after finding the car through an online advertisement.
He came close Thursday, but when he arrived at the Department of Motor Vehicles office on River Street in Cortland after waiting three weeks for his appointment, he was disappointed to find that the previous owner had not signed the title over to him. Saxton, 22, will have to come back today after getting the signature needed to complete the transaction.
Saxton is among the customers conducting business with the DMV during a time of pandemic, as safety precautions are drastically changing the way the office operates. While waiting for his appointment on Thursday afternoon was somewhat frustrating because he needed to get his car legally on the road, he said he was generally pleased with the experience.
“They were really kind, very friendly,” he said of the DMV staff members who assisted him.
Due to the virus, the DMV limited certain transactions through the drive-through window and all others through appointment only, a move that might stay even after the pandemic is over, said County Clerk Elizabeth Larkin.
“The appointment system is going very well and the majority of customers have provided overwhelming positive support,” she said in an email Thursday afternoon.
She said Gov. Andrew Cuomo has extended his executive order requiring an appointment-only system to continue until Oct. 11 but because of the positive response in Cortland County, “we will continue by appointment.”
Larkin also said she is now seeing people from other counties.
“Soon, I will allow all transactions every day,” she said. “Currently we do license-related transactions on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and all other transactions on Tuesday and Thursdays. Dealers will continue to be served from 3:30 p.m to 4:30 p.m. each day.”
However, the closure of the DMV for a short time during the pandemic has caused the county to lose over $100,000 in revenue that Larkin doesn’t believe can be made back up.
Between January 2019 and September 19, 2019 the DMV made just over $349,260. In the same time period this year it made about $238,250.
“At this point, we are working at maximum capacity and I do not see a way to recoup the money lost after being closed for a number of weeks or at least having had services drastically diminished,” she said. “In Cortland, we continued to process anything we could.”
In the past, the DMV has been able to cover the cost of its services with the revenue it generated. In 2018, the DMV generated almost $724,000 in revenue, with expenses of almost $455,000 — a profit of about $269,000. In 2019, the projected profit was over $293,200.
But the phone continues to ring off the hook at the office, a challenge Larkin said she hasn’t managed to resolve yet. The county projected generating $746,000 in revenue in 2020, but costs to run the DMV rose to about $523,500, meaning they would see a profit of about $222,500.
“While we strive to help everyone, there are rules that we must abide by that are instituted by NYS (New York state) and required paperwork is needed to process each transaction,”
Larkin said. “We have recently added two very good employees to our excellent staff and look forward to being able to conduct more transactions each day very soon. Both new employees are learning quickly and eventually the length of time to make an appointment will diminish as more transactions will be processed each day.”
City Editor Kevin Conlon contributed to this report