DMV expansion

Motor vehicle clerk Adriana Valenciana (right) helps Jeanne Bennett at the Department of Motor Vehicles' 46th Street office in April 2016.

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Modernizing Nebraska's DMV software will temporarily disrupt online and in-person renewals this weekend. 

But replacement of an early 1990s-era system will speed up and simplify many DMV transactions in the state, said Adam Eakin, the DMV's project and information manager.

Once it's launched, the new $21.9 million VicToRy system will register 2.5 million vehicles and collect $720 million in titling and registration revenue for state and local agencies, according to a news release.

Two of its key features include the ability for users to check the status of their specialty plate orders online and allow organizations with fleet service to complete registrations online in a streamlined process, the DMV said. 

Each year, 1,000 organizations, including businesses and farm cooperatives, have to register fleets of vehicles. 

The old system required a person to go to the DMV in each county where the vehicle was and register in person.

One company has registrations in 32 counties, Eakin said.

Under the new system, that organization can list them all in a spreadsheet processed online, he said.

The system also automates some manual processes, further reducing errors and simplifying forms for customers, the release said. 

In Lancaster County, online renewals were unavailable beginning Thursday at noon. They won't restart until Tuesday, when the system goes live.

The Lancaster County DMV locations at 625 N. 46th St. and 500 W. O St. will be closed Monday, and no DMV transactions will be available at the County Treasurer's Office at 555 S. 10th St. that day. 

Monday is a city holiday, Indigenous Peoples Day, and also a state and federal holiday, Columbus Day.

Motor vehicle fees and rates won't change with the new system, Lancaster County Treasurer Rachel Garver said.

In the next phase of the system, DMV officials hope to offer dealer-automated services that allow customers to submit vehicle titling paperwork electronically and pay for their title through the dealership where they bought the automobile, Eakin said.

Rock Island Trail work validated

The erosion-control work and drainage improvements that shut down access to the Rock Island Trail near the Penny Bridges for a portion of the summer drew praise on a cyclists' Facebook group recently.

One cyclist posted on the Great Plains Bicycling Club following last week's rains:

"3 inches of rain and no mud on the Rock Island Trail by the Penny Bridge," he said. "Good job City of Lincoln."  

Another commenter responded "Swamp no more!"

More than $340,000 in stormwater bond funds paid for design and construction there, including inlets to address problems with pooling water near the bridges.

Hot car ordinance questioned

Councilman James Michael Bowers' hot car ordinance is not a necessary one despite its best intentions, the lone public hearing opponent, Jonathan Herms, said Monday at the council's meeting.

Bowers' proposal enacts a legal defense for people who would break into a vehicle to save a child or animal in imminent danger, provided they follow a series of steps.

Herms, a Lincoln resident and dog owner, has no problem with the sentiment.

"I love dogs more than most of my friends," he said. 

From Herms' standpoint, there's no compelling interest for this ordinance. 

City prosecutors have never charged a Good Samaritan who busted a window to save an animal or child.

No child in Lincoln has died from being left in a hot car in recent years. A Lincoln dog died last year after its owner forgot it while working.

"I don't need a do-gooder trying to break out the window, not understanding the length of time I was not there," Herms said.

Before Herms testified, Bowers said his ordinance wouldn't restrict anyone's liberties or give cover to criminals looking to justify their bad actions.

His ordinance doesn't address civil liability that may result from such a case. 

In the Legislature, Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart's bill to shield a Good Samaritan from criminal or civil liability in these cases has stalled.

The City Council will vote on the ordinance Oct. 21.

Mayor gets leadership role

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird was tapped for leadership in the U.S. Conference of Mayors, an organization of mayors nationwide that develops and advocates for urban policies.

She will serve as vice chair of the conference's Mayors and Metro Universities Task Force.

The mayor attended the conference's leadership meeting last week in Detroit.

"Lincoln is a city that has energetic partnerships with our universities and colleges," Gaylor Baird said in a news release.

"This is an opportunity to heighten Lincoln's profile on the national stage, share information about how Lincoln is moving forward and bring home new ideas from across the country that will strengthen our partnerships." 

In her role, she'll help develop the task force's agenda, and the task force will focus on partnering with higher education and research institutions to advance community and economic development, according to the news release.

Fast takes

619 — The number of homeless or nearly homeless people served during the Project Connect Lincoln event Sept. 20. The event, staffed by 400 volunteers from 91 organizations, featured free personal care kits, a meal, and medical, dental and mental health care services, among other offerings.

Feb. 29, 2020 — The last day of interim Lincoln Transportation and Utilities Director Tom Casady's appointment to that position. The retired Public Safety Director and longtime Lincoln police chief was tapped to lead the city's largest department after Miki Esposito left her post for a job in the private sector. 

600 — The number of T-shirts sought by Lincoln Transportation and Utilities for department employees. A bid for the shirts asks they include the department's "LTU" logo, accreditation logo and mission statement: "It is our mission to responsibly deliver, enhance and maintain vital infrastructure and services for the good of our community."  

$371,978 — The grant award from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance to enhance the Lancaster County Veterans Court. Coordinator Dean Rohwer told the Lancaster County Board on Tuesday the award helps expand the program by offering housing and transportation assistance to participants to ensure they can remain on track with their treatment. Five veterans have graduated from the program since June.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

This article originally ran on journalstar.com.

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