Staffing changes at license centers cut costs for county

Staffing changes are planned at the Anoka County license centers to add stability and cut costs.

The first of those changes was approved by the Anoka County Board on the recommendation of its management and public works committees.

Overall, according to a report from license center staff to the public works and management committees, the plan is to eliminate four open positions (three full-time and one .75 full- time equivalent) and use some of those savings to increase the hours of four current positions from .75 FTE to full-time, to fund one currently unfunded .60 FTE position and create three additional .60 FTE positions.

May 22, the board took action on two of the planned staffing changes.

Following a retirement, a current full-time license center specialist was restructured to a .6 position and a present unfunded .6 FTE position was created, resulting in the elimination of a .4 FTE.

According to a memo to the public works committee from John Lenarz and Paula Anderson, license bureau services managers, the proposed restructuring of hours “allows us to increase service availability for the citizens of Anoka County, while achieving a reduction in expenses.”

The staff restructuring and the reduction of hours at the five license centers, which went into effect March 1, will result in an estimated savings of $80,260, Anderson and Lenarz wrote.

“The implementation of our recommendations will also help achieve staffing stability within the license bureau, while reducing total FTE and benefit costs,” they wrote.

“This restructure will restore some balance of regular employees, allowing greater retention potential, while retaining the flexibility needed to efficiently operate the license bureau.”

While voting for the restructured staffing, County Commissioner Dan Erhart was concerned that the changes would reduce service to the public and lead to long lines.

“This is not a service that is mandated, but one the county chooses to provide,” he said.

But Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah said that the staffing changes and new hours will lead to more efficiency and consistency.

Hours at each of the five license centers have shrunk from 47 to 42 hours a week, but overall license center service hours have expanded from 47 to 54 hours a week by having early morning and evening hours, Sivarajah said.

In fact, on some days license centers in Anoka County are open earlier than any other centers in the Twin Cities area, she said.

And increasing hours of some employees from .75 FTE to full time will lead to consistency for the customer in that they will see the same person if they have to come back another day, which has not always been the case, Sivarajah said.

“We will be continuing to serve the public well, but not subsidizing the service,” she said.

All the county’s five license center – Coon Rapids, Ramsey, Columbia Heights and Ham Lake – handle driver’s license renewals, motor vehicle tabs, game/fish licenses, DNR licenses (boat, ATV etc), marriage licenses, notary public and county park permits.

Coon Rapids, Columbia Heights and Ham Lake deal with first-time driver’s license applications as well as birth and death certificates, while passport applications are limited to the Ramsey and Blaine centers.

Hours of operation are:

• The Columbia Heights Center is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• The Coon Rapids center is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Tuesday from  11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• The Ramsey center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

• The Blaine center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday.

• The Ham Lake center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]