Tag Archives: Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles

Roundup: Historic Homes, Homes With Hope, DMV, More

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The Historic District Commission meets on March 9 (7 p.m., Zoom). Among the agenda items, they’ll discuss demolition requests for 70 Compo Mill Cove.

From 1922 until his death in 2014, that was Allen Raymond’s home. A beloved civic volunteer who gave time, talent and money to Westport in countless ways, he paid a final visit there exactly a month before he died, age 91.

70 Compo Mill Cove

Also on the agenda are demolition requests for:

  • 10 Scofield Place
  • 32 Owenoke Park
  • 19 Old Orchard Road,

In addition, the Historic District Commission will be asked to approve:

  • An application for exterior repairs, new windows and siding at 18 Post Road West (National Hall), in a National Historic District
  • Eligibility for a Historic Residential Structures Special Permit for 188 Cross Highway
  • Exterior repairs at 39 Cross Highway, a local history property.

Click here for the full agenda, including log-in information and details for public comment.

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Today is Giving Day. Homes with Hope — Westport’s wonderful supportive housing organization — is asking for help.

Just as they offer a variety of solutions — shelters, single-family homes, apartments and affordable housing, plus food and mentoring — there are several ways to support neighbors in need.

You can make a donation (click here).

You can post on social media, and ask your network to help.

You can create your own fundraiser too.

The tagline for Giving Day is “give where you live.” For people with nowhere to live, Homes with Hope can be life-saving.

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Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type: Thank you, DMV.

When my driver’s license renewal came up, I was not one of the lucky thousands who can do it online. Dutifully, I made an appointment. And prepared for the worst.

But the pandemic has goosed the notoriously inefficient, user-unfriendly department into new ways of working.

And boy, do they work.

I drove to Norwalk. My temperature was checked; then I was checked in quickly. I got a number. Two minutes later, it was called.

The clerk — a Westporter! — was friendly and funny. The paperwork was quick; the photo was, well, a driver’s license photo. I thanked her, and headed home.

Total elapsed time, door to door: 39 minutes.

I’ve waited longer than that while talking with a DMV clerk at his window in the past.

Like I said: Thank you, DMV!

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What have you been dying to ask superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice?

This afternoon at 3:15, you get your chance.

Just head to Instagram Live (@WestportMagazine), and fire away.

Can’t wait. You can DM your questions ahead of time: @DaveBriggsTV.

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During the pandemic, “CBS This Morning” has been honoring some of the 500,000 Americans who have died of COVID.

Tuesday’s show paid tribute to Sonny Fox. The longtime Weston resident — a legendary kids’ TV show host, among many other accomplishments — died last month, at 95.

Click here to view. (Hat tip: Larry Perlstein)

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And finally … today we celebrate 3 important holidays. February 25 is National Toast Day …

… and National Chili Day …

… and National Rubber Ducky Day.

Pics Of The Day #501

Seen at Compo Beach: This driver put one over on the DMV license plate enforcement division. He must be laughing his f—-ing ass off!

Meanwhile, this Texas plate — with plenty of New England influences — was spotted in Westport recently. (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

Free Sherwood Island!

Overlooked in the blizzard of news following the passage of our state’s last-in-the-nation budget is this:

Starting January 1, Connecticut residents will no longer pay for admission to 24 state parks and 3 state forests.

It’s covered through a new Department of Motor Vehicles charge: $10, paid every 2 years.

If you’re like me, and fail to see a connection between the DMV and the Department of Environmental and Energy Protection, look at the bottom line: The new charge will raise $16 million of the $18 million needed for annual operation of the parks.

Fees collected will be kept separate from Connecticut’s general fund.

Shewood Island State Park: 232 acres of prime real estate, right here in Westport.

What does that mean for Westport?

For one thing, Sherwood Island — the often-overlooked 232-acre gem right inside our borders — might get a few more town visitors.

For another, I’m sure someone will suggest that the solution to our Compo Beach crowds is to shunt more out-of-towners to the state park.

Of course, free admission applies only to Connecticut residents. Whether at Sherwood Island or Compo, New Yorkers still have to pay.

DMV Just Got A Whole Lot More Crowded

When AAA moved its Compo Shopping Center location to Norwalk, Westporters were slightly inconvenienced.

As of this past Sunday, drivers throughout Fairfield County have many more hassles than that.

New Haven County, too.

On December 31, a contract between AAA Northeast — which serves those 2 counties — and the state Department of Motor Vehicles ran out. Because the 2 sides could not agree on new terms, AAA offices no longer offer driver’s license renewals, and other services.

That’s about 160,000 transactions a year, in both counties.

DMW wanted AAA to provide license renewal and similar services to members and non-members alike. That had been the policy — free to members, $5 for non-members — but AAA said that was not enough to cover its costs.

AAA’s services had been a godsend to drivers unwilling — or unable — to brave the long lines at DMV offices in places like Norwalk.

With the start of the new year, those lines got much, much longer.

This shot of the Norwalk DMV was taken last February -- when AAA was still providing driver's license renewal and other services.

This shot of the Norwalk DMV was taken last February — when AAA was still providing driver’s license renewal and other services.

(Hat tip: Peter Flatow)

Connecticut Has A License To Innovate

One of the many attractions at last spring’s Westport’s MakerFaire was a prototype of a new Connecticut license plate. It reads (cleverly) “State of Innovation.”

The Department of Motor Vehicles recently approved the request for the special plate. Organizers are now taking orders for them.

The cost is $85 for a standard license plate, $154 for a vanity license plate.A portion of the proceeds goes to Remarkable STEAM, the non-profit behind the Westport Mini Maker Faire.

Organizers need 400 orders for the state DMV to proceed. For more information — or to order your “State of Innovation” plate — click here.

CT state of innovation license plate

WTF, DMV?

Alert “06880” reader Sal Gilbertie had time — p-l-e-n-t-y of time — to write to “06880” today. At 1:02 p.m., he sent this report:

I have been at the Norwalk DMV for about 2 hours now. If the current speed of customer flow is maintained, I’m guessing I have another 2 hours before my business will be complete.

Just snapped this picture, which represents some of the problem. I am directly in front of service windows 1-6, of 22 total service windows. Window 1 on the right did not fit into the picture, and window 6 on the left is obscured by the pole. Trust me: All are empty.

DMV - Norwalk - February 24, 2016

To be fair, this was taken at 12:31 p.m., quite possibly the tail end of some sort of lunch break (unannounced, if it occurred at all). However, at no time since I have been here have more than 11 of the 22 windows been staffed with DMV personnel at any time.

Everyone in the entire place is very friendly, pleasant and patient (staff and customers).

But everyone (all of the staff and customers with whom I have spoken) agrees that the place is clearly understaffed.

The general consensus is that DMV is a “pay-for-play” kind of place. The 2 questions most people seem to ask are:

  • “Why doesn’t DMV raise its fees so it can hire more people?”
  • “When the DMV does make changes, why don’t they adequately plan for an ever-increasing level of service requirements, since there will never be fewer people or fewer cars?”

CT DMVIn a state like Connecticut — with an economy like ours — there are probably lots of well qualified people who would welcome a chance to have a job in DMV.

Lots of people are wasting lots of time here. Kind of takes some of the mystery out of why productivity and the economy are growing so slowly, doesn’t it?

How hard can this be to fix?

POSTSCRIPT: Sal emailed again, at 1:39 p.m.:

I just finished. My business was completed efficiently and pleasantly, albeit with plenty of time lost.

SPECIAL “0688o” PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: AAA offers many DMV services — including driver’s license renewals. They’re no longer in Westport — but there are offices just over the Norwalk line, and in Fairfield. Click here for details.

AAA Leaves Westport — But We Won’t Have Far To Drive

AAA is a great organization. They’re still just a phone call away for road assistance — and now with cell phones, calling for help is easier than ever — while their walk-in offices have adapted well to changing times.

GPS has rendered TripTiks — those cobbled-together map books that showed you exactly how to get anywhere — irrelevant to anyone but your great-grandparents. But these days AAA also offers an important collection of services, like a free notary, passport photos, and the most time-saving, hassle-avoiding life hack you may ever enjoy: DMV services, including drivers license renewals. It rocks — and you don’t even have to be a member!

Recently, AAA studied the number of visitors to its Compo Shopping Center location. They’ve been there 5 years, after 20 in the small Saugatuck plaza across from Dunville’s.

AAA

This location is convenient — and it’s near Gold’s! — but AAA found that most visitors came from Norwalk. The 2nd highest number were from Fairfield. Hometown Westport was 3rd.

So AAA is doing the logical thing: They’re moving to Norwalk. Even smarter: They’re opening a new branch in Fairfield.

The Norwalk office will be at 495 Westport Avenue (Route 1). That’s the Hawley Lane Shoes plaza, across from The Edge and movie theaters. Just 2.2 miles from the current location, the new office will be larger than the current one — and there’s more parking. The move takes place in 6-8 weeks.

The new Fairfield site is 1201 Kings Highway North — the Staples shopping center  off I-95 Exit 24. The target date is June 1.

It seems like a winning solution for everyone. Unless you want a pastrami on rye while waiting for your license to be laminated.

(Hat tip: Sandy Soennichsen)

If You Thought The DMV Was Hell Before…

…then you really don’t want to read this story.

It’s related by an alert “06880” reader named Jill.  Last week her 16-year-old son Jon went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get his learner’s permit.  Jill took the day off to accompany him.

Literally, the day off.

Unknown to anyone — except everyone needing to go there — on August 12, the DMV “regionalized” certain services.  That includes testing for permits, road tests and out-of-state license transfers.

Those services are no longer offered in 8 offices — including, unfortunately for “06880” readers, Norwalk.

Only 4 DMV offices in the entire state now offer obtain permits and driver’s licenses.  Westport:  meet Bridgeport.

Here is Jill’s story.  It is not pretty.

We arrived at 12:45, and got on line.  When you get to the front, you tell a woman why you are there.  She tells you what you need to have.

(A friend of Jon’s spent 4 hours waiting, only to be turned away because he didn’t have an actual Social Security card — only the number.  The next day, he got a note from the Social Security office saying his card was in the mail.  He went back to DMV — and was told the note was not a “sufficient form of secondary ID.”  He finally succeeded — after going home to get his religious school confirmation papers.)

You then take a picture, to ensure it is actually you who are waiting.  They also assign you a number.

We were “B-485.”  They were up to “B-353.”  I asked for an estimate.  She said she was afraid to tell me.  I asked her to ballpark it.  She said it could be 2 1/2 to 3 hours.   I said, “Not too bad.”

She replied, “Or maybe more…”

Since Jon had just finished soccer camp and was hungry, we decided to go out for food.  We had pizza, and got back an hour later.  They were up to 377.

The numbers picked up a bit, but at 3 p.m. the “B”s ground to a halt.  I  finished my Kindle book and got up to check out lines 10-14, which had been servicing the “B”s (all licenses, I believe).

One person was working.  All the rest were on break.

25 minutes later, the lines began to move again.

The holy grail.

At 4 p.m. they announced they were no longer accepting new people for testing.  Anyone who arrived after that was turned away.  One mother lamented that she’d been there since 10, waiting for her son to get his license.  I felt so sorry for her.  Little did I know…

At 4:50 our number was finally called.  We got to the counter with the correct documents.  Jon wanted to get back to the evening session of soccer camp, so I asked if — because we’d already waited — we could get a “fast pass” to return another day to take the test.

We were told no.  Since we were already 4 hours in, we decided to finish the arduous task.  Total time at the counter was 2 minutes.  I’m not sure why this process goes so slowly, except maybe many people have the wrong paperwork.

We went to line 19.  We waited another 75 minutes before Jon could take his vision test (5 seconds), and the computerized 25-question test.

Because he’d had 5 hours to study, he got the first 20 correct, and was done.  Total time:  5 minutes.

We were sent back around the corner to sit and wait for our name to be called again:  20 minutes.  We paid another fee, then waited again to take a picture.

By this time the front part of the DMV was pretty empty.   The people behind the desk were working very efficiently, as they all wanted to go home.

Applicants for a Connecticut DMV learner's permit, midway through the line. They've been waiting since they were 16.

We got the picture and permit back in 40 minutes.  Earlier, people had waited well over an hour for the picture portion to be done.  (Others waited 6 hours to change their New York license to Connecticut.  All they needed was an eye test:  3 seconds.)

We left at 6:54.  Total time:  6 hours and 9 minutes.

I did meet 2 really nice inspectors (they do the driving tests).  Both complained about how awful it’s been all week.  They say that everyone getting a permit or license from  Greenwich to Guilford now comes to the Bridgeport DMV.

Both could care less about the overtime.  They just want to go home.  They also want all of us to complain, and get this situation fixed.

They confirmed what I thought:  The state is likely not saving a cent with all of the overtime they’re paying.  As we left, one jokingly grabbed my shoulders and said, “Take me with you!”

Jill says she can’t imagine what will happen when the school year begins, and students will spend an entire day waiting.

That’s a good point.  However, it’s not like they’ll miss out on their education.  In fact, they’ll get a real-life lesson:  in the way the actual bureaucratic, government world works.