County DMVs have smooth reopening

Giselle Ellis is pictured Monday at the county Department of Motor Vehicles office in Dunkirk.

After more than a year, the Chautauqua County Department of Motor Vehicles is once again accepting walk-ins.

Monday was the first day since the COVID-19 pandemic began that residents didn’t need to make an appointment. “We’re doing both appointments and walk-ins. By ‘walk in’ that means you get in line and when we’re ready to take care of you we will,” explained Larry Barmore, county clerk, who oversees the county’s three DMV offices.

Masks and social distancing are required. If there are too many people inside the building, a line is formed outside where people must wait. Barmore said Monday they had up to 15 people in line for the Dunkirk DMV, while there were up to 30 people in line in Jamestown. “All in all, things went pretty smoothly,” he said.

The biggest problem Barmore said they’re having has nothing to do with the pandemic. He said right now the testing system is down, so they can’t offer online permit tests, or offer commercial driver’s licenses. He has been in touch with the state, but they haven’t said what the problem is or when it will be resolved.

For teenagers and others seeking to get a driver’s permit, they can make an appointment and the DMV office can offer a paper test. For those seeking CDLs, there’s nothing the clerk’s office can do, until the state resolves its issues.

The county also can’t schedule drivers license tests either. According to Barmore, that system has been down for three weeks but he hasn’t been told why. “I’m not very happy with New York state, but that’s nothing new,” he said.

Some of his frustrations lie in how the state continues to push for on-line renewal of vehicle registrations and drivers licenses, including getting private eye tests, instead of requiring a local DMV to do it.

When residents renew their vehicles on line, the state gets all the revenue, but when it’s done in person, the county gets a portion of the fees. Because the DMV offices could only offer drop boxes, it appears more people did on line renewals, but Barmore isn’t sure how many more did this. “We lost so much money last year, it’s hard to tell where we lost it,” he said.

And for those residents who prefer to make appointments instead of standing in line, Barmore said that will continue. He noted the Mayville office’s revenue has jumped due to appointments.

“They had appointments available, so I think a lot of people drove from Jamestown because they knew they could make an appointment there,” he said.


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