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'A host of challenges': Shelby County clerk speaks on license plate delays

The county clerk's office said since May, over 35,000 customers experienced a backlog in getting their plates.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert said she wants the state to come look at what's happening in her office as drivers deal with long lines on top of delays to get their hands on new license plates

Continued long lines have been a major issue for the public, with customers even passing out in extreme heat in some cases.  

Halbert announced starting next week, the office will stop the line at about 30 people who can leave, sit in their car then return after they are ready to be serviced. 

The county clerk's office said over 35,000 customers experienced a backlog in getting their plates. That's since May.  

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The office isn't 100% caught up on backlogged plates yet, saying it's currently working on those bought at the end of June.  

All backlogged plates should be mailed out by the middle to end of next week, Halbert said. 

Mailing is only the surface level of the office’s issues. Halbert showed pictures of cramped working conditions in the motor vehicle and driver's license offices.   

“It is not fair not only to the citizens and customers of Shelby County, but the employees of the Shelby County clerk’s office," said Halbert. "You should see the deplorable conditions.”

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Additionally, the office said the size of offices has remained the same over the years, despite demand increasing and population growth.

In a press conference Tuesday, Halbert said though some have stated otherwise, her office’s funds have been reduced off the top.

“Every single day, there's a new issue," the county clerk shared. "That negatively impacts our day-to-day operations. We should have a $12.7 million budget for this operation. That is reduced to $6.4 million or less.” 

We reached out to County Commissioner Van Turner, who said he can't deny Halbert's claim about the county clerk's office budget being reduced 

He did state Tuesday evening that an amount of a decrease in the budget would catch the eye of commissioners. 

"If that's the case, we'll investigate and confirm that that is actually what has occurred," said Turner.  "As you know, clerk Halbert's office is a money-generating office. She funds her office through the fees that she collects. It's one of the biggest offices in the county. The fact that she doesn't have the resources that she needs would be a surprise to me."

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“If you actually look at the budget, how in the world have I been paying some of these internal organizations that I’ve never met,” said Halbert. 

Turner said he will back check the commission and county mayor's office on Halbert's budget/statement. 

Halbert said low staffing continues to be a problem.   

The county clerk also personally apologized to Memphis and Shelby County taxpayers and drivers for the interference in services.  

Halbert said she plans on reaching out to the governor and comptroller's office next.

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