New Licensing, Boater Registration Systems Experiencing Start-Up Glitches

DNR says Georgia Wal-Marts will begin selling licenses this month.

Nick Carter | March 1, 2009

It was a bumpy start for DNR’s new outsourced licensing and boater-registration systems, but DNR officials say they are ironing out the glitches.

“It’s doing as fine as possible for as complicated a system as we have,” said Licensing and Boater Registration Program Manager David Neyhart. “In the beginning, there were definitely issues where we experienced problems. But we expected some glitches, and when they’ve come up, we’ve handled them as quickly as possible.”

Under problems with outdated equipment and under-staffed technological support, Georgia outsourced its hunting and fishing licensure and boat registration to Missouri-based Central Bank last year. The move carried increased fees for the state’s hunters, anglers and boaters, as well as limited over-the-counter opportunities for license purchases, but DNR insisted the system would provide increased convenience.

Over-the-counter license availability has been a sticking point for sportsmen since negotiations with Central Bank went public. That still seems to be a major problem for customers in rural areas who do not use credit cards or are unwilling to conduct transactions over the phone or online. At last count under the old system, there were 1,030 dealers participating. As of Feb. 9 under the new system, there were just 260 locations available for over-the-counter license purchases. Most of those 260 locations are mom-and-pop stores and DNR offices, Neyhart said.

Neyhart hopes Walmart locations will begin participating in the system by March 15. That would add about 135 new locations if every Georgia Walmart participates. However, even if every Walmart signs on, there will still be more than 60 percent fewer sales locations than under the old system. A list of license dealers is on the DNR website.

Technological problems have affected customers, as well. Off the bat, customers experienced problems buying hunting or fishing licenses. Significant system outages early on made it impossible to purchase a license online, by phone or over the counter. Neyhart could not give specific times or dates for these outages, but he did say there have not been any lengthy, unplanned outages in the system since the first week in January.

“In the beginning we experienced some teething issues, but since that first week I’m not aware of anything significant,” Neyhart said.

Another problem customers have had involves renewals. Currently, the system will not allow sportsmen to renew their hunting and fishing licenses until they expire. Neyhart said a new program that will allow customers to renew within 90 days of the expiration date of their licenses is in the testing phase right now. He expects it to go online in the next couple of weeks.

Boater registration has had its teething issues, as well. GON has recently received several phone calls from angry boat owners, and one said it took 55 days from the time his check was cashed until he got his decals.

According to Neyhart, for both boater registration and licensing, the online processing occurs at Central Bank in Missouri. The telephone call-processing center is in Maryland, and boat decals are printed in Connecticut. By contract, the printer is required to ship decals within three days of receiving an order, Neyhart said. He added that by mid March boater registration should take seven to 15 days from the time a check is processed.

“We have implemented two very complex systems. We are the only state in the country that has outsourced everything,” said Neyhart. “Once we get the bugs worked out of it and we get things working, it’s going to be a lot better than the old system. Once everything is settled, there are still going to be issues that pop up.”

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