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Monday, October 12, 2009

Hyde County Shows How to Save Rural Drivers License Stations

...or, Rounds Administration shows how not to involve local officials in problem solving.

State Representative Bill Van Gerpen from Tyndall is working with state, county, and local officials to find a way to re-open the rural drivers license stations that Pierre closed to cut wait times for Sioux Falls drivers.

Rep. Van Gerpen, call former Rep. Nick Nemec. Mr. Nemec provides a solution that could re-establish drivers license stations to most of the rural communities—or at least their counties—by Christmas:

Highmore lost its drivers license examiner years ago. But the solution has been better than the old status quo. Now if you need to renew or even get a license for the first time you just go to the county treasurers office. Hyde County Treasurer Sandi Hemminger administers the written test, the eye exam, and takes your photo with a digital camera. Sheriff Mike Volek administers the driving test if needed. All the results and the photo are electronically transmitted to Pierre, and in a few days your new license comes in the mail. When this system was first implemented during the Janklow years it was touted as a way to save money and provide better service to rural SD.

I assume it has saved money and the service is much better. The treasurers office is open 5 days a week while the examiner used to come to town only once every month or so.

There are ways to do things better without sticking it to rural SD. We just have to think of them. I don't know if this system will be allowed in other towns. If I remember correctly Hyde County agreed to try if on a trial basis and was the first, and maybe only, county in the state to do so [Nick Nemec, comment, Madville Times, 2009.10.09].

Department of Public Safety Secretary Tom Dravland tells the Yankton Press & Dakotan he's "willing to discuss with legislators and with other South Dakota citizens any suggestions for ways to deliver driver licensing service." Of course, if the Rounds administration had talked to county officials before imposing this plan, the folks at the courthouses in Olivet, Britton, Canton, and elsewhere would have had time to study their options. They could have talked to the folks in Hyde County, studied the cost and details, and worked out a plan with Sec. Dravland to cut costs and improve service for everyone, not just the big city. The state could have transitioned to a plan that everyone in Pierre, Sioux Falls, and our small towns could join hands and sing kumbayah over.

But effective participatory government isn't nearly as fun as ruling by fiat and torquing off a bunch of small-town voters and legislators, right?

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