People line up for hours at reopened Clinton County DMV

Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 4:40 PM EDT
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People waited for hours Monday outside the Department of Motor Vehicles in Clinton County. It was the first day the DMV opened to the public in nearly four months. Our Kelly O'Brien was there.

The line went from the DMV inside Government Center through the courtyard, down Margaret Street all the way to Court Street. People waited an average of three to four hours to get inside. The DMV asked people to be patient and only come if they need to.

"I knew it was going to be busy but I didn't think it was going to be that busy," said Tamara Burke of West Chazy.

Burke is trying to get her car on the road. She got to the DMV at 6 a.m. and waited for hours to get her wheels registered.

"Just get my plates and go home," she said.

Burke thought going to the office would be better than online, which she says would require mailing in paperwork and it could take up to a month. She says after her hours waiting her opinion has changed.

"I think it would have just been better to mail it," she said.

"We knew demand would be high, but to be very frank we did not think this many people would show up on day one," said Mike Zurlo of the Clinton County Legislative Office.

There is a laundry list of reasons why someone might be waiting at the DMV on opening day: to get a new license; to register a car, boat or other watercraft and its trailer; and anything that requires a photo requires an in-person visit to the DMV.

Zurlo says now it's a game of catch-up.

"People need to be patient," he said. "We cannot handle the backlog from mid-March to July in one day."

Zurlo says New York state is not enforcing expired licenses and registrations amid the pandemic, so he asks people to only come if it's critical.

"If the license or registration is expired, folks will not be ticketed," Zurlo said.

Changes at the DMV are 6 feet of space in between guests that are clearly marked, masks must be worn and are being handed out, and no appointments.

The weather is expected to get warmer this week, which is a concern to the county because of the long wait outside.

"We are appreciative that people want to get their motor vehicle done but we are urging caution and urging patience. And if you can hold off, please do so," Zurlo said.

Burke was still waiting to get her plates when we left the DMV at 1 p.m. Her advice to anyone coming was don't.

"Absolutely do not come today," she said. "Stay far away because you will be out there forever."

They cut the line off at 1 p.m. Monday to make sure that everyone who was waiting would make it inside before the DMV closed at 5 p.m.

Again, the county is urging people that if it's not critical you go to the DMV right now, you hold off to help alleviate the wait times.