After being closed for more than three months due to coronavirus concerns, two of the three Cattaraugus County Department of Motor Vehicles offices reopened on Monday.
Prepare to be wearing a mask while in county buildings — everyone else will be wearing one, too.
The Olean and Little Valley Department of Motor Vehicles offices reopened with limited services, County Clerk Alan Bernstein said Monday as he monitored the opening of the Olean DMV office in the County Office Building.
The Delevan office is smaller and won’t reopen yet, Bernstein said.
Bernstein said walk-ins are also being accepted, but there is no guarantee how long the wait will be.
“We opened at 8 o’clock this morning,” Bernstein said. “The system is set up where most people are making appointments,” he said. “Limited walk-ins are available.”
Without any publicity, five to 10 appointments had been made on the website the first 10 minutes it was posted. Bernstein said no permit testing is being scheduled yet.
There are fewer windows open in the offices in order to maintain social distances. The lines are short. Coming in through the door, visitors are greeted by an employee with a face mask. They are asked about their health and get a thermal scan. Before proceeding, they’re asked to use hand sanitizer.
The only time you’ll be asked to lower your mask is if you are getting a photograph for your license. Otherwise keep the mask on until you’re out the front door of the building.
You’ll find plexiglass at the teller windows, Bernstein said. Don’t touch anything you don’t have to, although staff will be wiping down services periodically throughout the day. You can take your pen with you too, he added.
Also, no customers will be processed after 4:30 p.m. to allow staff time to disinfect the offices, the county clerk said.
Bernstein said he’s confident the policy is sufficient to protect staff and the public. Like all county department heads, he had to submit reopening plans to the County Administrator’s Office.
Bernstein thinks more walk-ins will come to the DMV offices as soon as the news gets out. “It’s hard to gauge,” he said. “Between the three offices, we do about 400 transactions a day. He has continued to handle dealers as well.
Licenses, inspections and registrations have been extended indefinitely during the height of the pandemic, but local offices had drop boxes and mail transactions.
Many residents have been mailing their auto transactions to Albany during the past three months, Bernstein said. He wants to increase the number of residents utilizing county DMV offices.
“We want to make sure we can keep people safe and give them the services they need,” Bernstein said.
In the County Clerk’s Office at the County Center in Little Valley, the area has been closed to title searches. That will fully open later, but property closings will no longer be hosted in the clerk’s office, Bernstein said. “We want to keep down non-essential traffic.”
Bernstein said he plans to error on the side of caution and keep people safe. There are signs and floor markings to enforce social distancing. Faces masks will be worn at all times.
When making an appointment, be sure to: Book the appointment in the name of the person who will be visiting the office to conduct the transaction.
Access to the office is restricted to only the person conducting the transaction.
As of now, no permit tests are being conducted.
DMV will continue to process transactions via mail and drop-offs. Transactions can now be dropped off at the County Building in both Little Valley and Olean. They also can be mailed to the Motor Vehicle office at 303 Court Street, Little Valley, NY 14755. Completed transactions will be mailed back.
Any questions call the Motor Vehicle Office at (716) 701-3343.
Other offices are reopening to the public as well, although County Administrator Jack Searles said most offices never really closed in the coronavirus pandemic.
The buildings really never closed for business,” Searles recounted Monday. “You were screened when you came in.” People wore masks when unable to maintain a six-foot social distance. The county was under a state order to reduce its workforce in the workplace by 50%.
“Last Thursday they (state) went back to full open,” Searles said. Some employees will continue to work from home where they can’t maintain a social distance in the workplace. Family Court opened this week in Olean.
“All departments opened,” the county administrator said. “They were all required to submit a safety plan. Everything is back to business, one way or another. The Emergency Operations Center is continuing.
Nutrition sites remain closed although Meals on Wheels delivers nearly 15,000 meals a week to seniors.
The Womens, Infants and Children (WIC) program continues to operate, as does the Health Department, Probation, Community Services and Social Services.
Nursing home visitation remains shut down.
Entrance to the county buildings is by the main entrance only so screening can be done. You will be asked to wear a mask in all public areas — staff too.
“You’ll see more plexiglass and staff wearing masks,” Searles said. “There are hand sanitizer stations too.”
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)