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Drivers, car dealers want state to step in over Shelby County Clerk's Office license plate backlog

Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert said her office is working through the mail backlog, and promised improvements to outdoor line conditions next week.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — The record high heat in recent days is just the latest challenge for the Shelby County Clerk's Office and increasingly frustrated customers waiting in line in the elements. Tuesday, Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert promised changes to improve outdoor conditions at their locations.

"Something needs to be done," Lisa Harris said. "I don't know what the hang ups are, the system could definitely be improved."

Harris' concerns linger after she said she recently waited in line for nearly three hours in the heat at the Shelby County Clerk's Mullins Station office.

"As I stood there in the hot sun, with elderly people, a guy in line behind me just had surgery, people with children, and I thought about the folks who couldn't really afford to take a day off," Harris added.

Her visit came out of necessity; she said she hadn't received a new car tag - months after sending out for one in the mail and the temporary tag on her new car was set to expire.

"I just thought this could be done so much more efficiently: numbers, appointments, call ahead," Harris said.

Tuesday, Halbert said starting next week, staff will stop the line at about 30 people, so others can cool off in their car and be alerted when it's their turn. But Harris said that's not good enough.

"It makes no sense that you would sit in your car on the property," Harris said. "How about a more efficient process so you can get people in, get people out?"

 "The tag situation is total chaos," Kent Ritchey with the Greater Memphis Automobile Dealers Association said.

Richey's organization asked the state to help with a backlog of more than 7,000 tag applications they've waited on since April.

"We want to get this fixed as soon as we can," Ritchey added.

The group hopes the state can provide relief to Shelby County and allow extensions to temporary tags beyond the current 60 days.

"We have thousands and thousands of customers that are riding around on either expired drive-out tags or soon to be expired drive-out tags," Ritchey said.

Halbert also said Tuesday she supports the state assisting her office, described long lines as unacceptable, and said her office is trying to fill open positions as quickly as possible.

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