Moving the Motor Vehicle Title & Registration Bureau to Helena is Best for Taxpayers, Customers
By Mike Milburn
Chief of Staff, Montana Department of Justice
The Department of Justice has a responsibility to provide the very best services to the people of Montana. As part of our ongoing efforts to fulfill that mission, recently our Motor Vehicle Division announced that its Title and Registration Bureau will move from Deer Lodge to Helena in November. Through consolidation we can more efficiently utilize our resources to provide better customer service, improve response and wait times, improve productivity throughout our operations, and save taxpayer dollars.
While the Title and Registration Bureau was placed in Deer Lodge originally because it distributed license plates manufactured at Montana State Prison, the operational reason to have the bureau there ceased to exist many years ago. Now plates are sent directly to county treasurers. The bureau employs 35 people – approximately half the number that had been working there at one time. The bureau is isolated from the Motor Vehicle Division’s management and main office in Helena, as well as from other staff who also provide central services for all of Montana. This isolation, the redundancy in services, distance from management and other centralized functions, and cost of operation, creates an inefficient business practice.
To address these issues and to better meet the needs of the public, we researched a number of options and weighed the costs and benefits carefully. Facing an expired lease at the Deer Lodge building, long-running problems with building maintenance, and problems with the cost of rent, we made the decision to move. We explored the availability of alternate sites within the region, but integrating the Motor Vehicle Division’s central operations and bringing together a dispersed workforce makes the most sense. The driver testing station currently in Deer Lodge will remain in that community, as it’s a regional service.
State revenue is down and projected to only get worse. By reducing costs, we will free up resources that we can allocate elsewhere in the agency to improve driver testing and licensing services. The demand for these and all Motor Vehicle Division services will continue to increase as Montana’s population grows and more vehicles are registered.
Our dealership customers, who rely on us for title work and temporary vehicle licensing, will benefit from the move. Some send runners to the Title and Registration Bureau as often as daily. For most, the move will result in shorter travel times.
Relocating an office is never an easy decision because it impacts people, and we understand some employees will have difficulties with the move. This was a primary concern in our decision-making process. But our employees will have opportunities not available to them in their current location. They’ll benefit from cross training, career development, professional growth, and more. We have made it clear that there are no layoffs as a result of the transition.
Change is seldom easy, especially in a government culture that all too often says “that’s the way we’ve always done things.” We don’t take these decisions lightly, particularly when there’s a human impact, but as an agency serving all Montanans we must look to the future. The people who rely on us for services and the legislators who appropriate taxpayer dollars for those services expect us to focus on the best interests of all Montanans and the most efficient way to deliver services. To meet these obligations means we must make difficult decisions. The decision to move the Title and Registration Bureau from Deer Lodge to Helena, though difficult, is what’s best for Montana.