Hours-long queue for marriage, vehicle and business licenses at Pierce County office

The Pierce County Auditor’s Office has announced a severe staffing shortage that is causing hours-long waits to register in person for vehicle, marriage and business licenses.

The office tweeted Monday that customers arriving at the licensing office after 1 p.m. from June through September should expect to wait one to two hours to conduct their business. The office is in Room 2000 at 2401 S. 35th St.

Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson told The News Tribune that four of 16 window clerks positions are vacant during the office’s busiest time of year.

“We have a crushing crowd in front of us and a whole slew of backlog of the computer,” Anderson said.

The licensing division oversees renewing tabs and registering vehicles and vessels, provides passport services, and applications for business, marriage and pet licenses.

There a more residents in Pierce County than ever before, and summers are the busiest for the licensing division because there is an increase in weddings, travel and interest in boating, Anderson said.

Lines can stretch into the lobby and out the door. Customers sprawl on the floor while waiting hours in some cases to be seen. Employees from other divisions are needed to help with the increased workload, leaving their own work on the desk, the auditor said. Clerks don’t leave the office until after 6 p.m., even though the doors close at 4:30 p.m.

“It’s not sustainable,” Anderson said.

The Pierce County Council voted on Tuesday to allot $45,000 to hire for a temporary position in the office, according to county council documents.

People who wish to renew or register vehicles or boats are being asked to visit one of the authorized businesses across the county that do such work. Licenses there cost the same as at the Tacoma office with a shorter wait time.

In general, Anderson asks customers to print required forms and have them ready beforehand.

Checks or money orders are necessary for passport applications.

Josephine Peterson covers Pierce County and Puyallup for The News Tribune and The Puyallup Herald. She previously worked at The News Journal in Delaware as the crime reporter and interned at The Washington Post.