DNR: The turkey tag system will change

Madison – The fact that the DNR eventually sold almost 20,000
bonus turkey tags on that fateful day of Friday, March 28, is
little consolation for the thousands of sportsmen who stood in line
and waited for the DNR’s bogged-down licensing system to spit out a
$10 tag.

Retailers not only were upset about the failed DNR licensing
system, but also the fact that they had difficulty selling any
retail items because counter personnel were trying to get the
licensing hardware to work.

That customer service nightmare now has the DNR looking at other
ways to sell leftover turkey tags, according to Diane Brookbank,
DNR Bureau of Licensing director.

“Our goal is to come up with a different way to issue these
permits,” Brookbank said. “I hope to have something in place as
soon as this upcoming fall turkey tag sale.”

“We’re not going to do it the same way,” added Laurel Steffes,
DNR policy initiatives advisor. “We don’t want to inconvenience
hunters and retailers in the same way again.”

Bitter Creek Sports, of Slinger, and St. Croix Outdoors, of St.
Croix Falls, are two stores that put on extra help that day in
anticipation of high demand for the leftover tags – and potential
computer problems.

“Everyone expected this to happen because it was a brand new
system,” said Les Cleveland, of St. Croix Outdoors. “The last time
they put in a new system, we had the same thing. We had extra help
in here that whole time. I didn’t do anything that whole day, with
the exception of selling a few licenses. My boss had to pay me all
day to stand there, and we sold 10 tags from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,
then about 40 in the next two hours.”

Jeremy “Jeep” Wenninger, an employee at Bitter Creek Sports,
said store owners took the brunt of the system failure, either
through lost sales of items besides licenses, paying for extra
help, or absorbing comments from dissatisfied customers.

“We’re trying to help the DNR sell licenses, but we’re here and
we don’t have anything to do with creating the problem,” Wenninger
said. “There were people in here trying to get bows set up, but no
one had time to help them. That Friday we got absolutely nothing
done here.”

Wenninger had about 40 people in line when the store opened, and
Cleveland had more than 50 people in line.

“Our customers would have been more upset, but we took all of
their information, ran them when the machine came up, then called
the customers. We were able to get each person the tag they
wanted,” Cleveland said.

Wenninger said he had customers who had taken the day off of
work, taken a half-day, or switched lunch hours so they could get a
tag.

“There were a lot of angry people, very frustrated. We also got
calls from other retailers who were trying to find out if our
machine was working,” he said.

Wenninger said the crew at Bitter Creek also expected problems
on March 28.

“On March 10, we had trouble selling regular licenses. It took
us two weeks to get the machine up and running – until the
Wednesday before the turkey tags went on sale. They (DNR) had us
trying different cords, different paper,” he said.

Brookbank said the DNR did have problems with the new system
printing licenses from March 10 through March 26 or 27. “That was
printer and paper problems, but the issues on March 28 were
unrelated to prior problems,” Brookbank said.

“The system was having an extremely difficult time handling the
capacity,” she said. “It wasn’t fully down, but it was processing
transactions very slowly. I’m not sure of the technical solution,
but they added a server right after lunch. By 5:30 p.m., they were
at full capacity again.”

The DNR contracts with Central Bank of Jefferson City, Mo., to
handle the automated license sales. Central Bank has subcontracted
with Automated License Systems of Nashville, Tenn., for something
called “Help Desk Services,” according to Brookbank.

“We called Nashville and they asked us to please bear with them
because they’re learning, too. They didn’t really know a whole lot
about the system, either,” Wenninger said. “They (DNR) knew they
were going to have this system well in advance. I don’t know why
they didn’t fully test it. It’s been a joke.”

Cleveland said the DNR doesn’t have to scrap the first-come,
first-served system.

“They’re going to seven zones this fall – put one zone on sale
each day for a week. That will reduce the demand and the strain on
the system,” he said.

Brookbank said the DNR tested the system considerably prior to
March 10. “We received an error on March 8 and only saw it once,”
she said.

The DNR pays Central Bank about $3 million per year under the
current contract. That’s about $200,000 per year less than the DNR
paid the last eight years. Brookbank did not know what sort of
compensation the DNR would seek from Central Bank for its failure
to deliver the tags.

“We have specific procedures we need to follow via the contract,
and we’re going through a review process right now,” she said.

“I can tell you an apology is going out to every person who
purchased a permit on Friday,” she said.

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