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'This is total insanity': JaxCo residents frustrated over repeated long lines at Historic Truman Courthouse

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Posted at 4:40 PM, Mar 26, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County residents are frustrated over long lines and wait times at Historic Truman Courthouse in Independence, which houses the county assessor’s office.

Residents have sent multiple photos and tips to KSHB 41 about having to wait hours for service and even being turned away due to long lines.

KSHB 41 visited the courthouse Tuesday before it opened at 8 a.m. and was met with a line of at least 50 people, many of whom were there early in the cold, wet weather to pay their personal property taxes, get a waiver for their vehicle or get a certificate of non-assessment.

People at the very front of the line told us they arrived as early as 4 a.m., and others added this was their second, third or fourth attempt to handle their business.

“This is my second time here,” said Anne Davis, a Jackson County resident who came over the weekend to get a certificate of non-assessment so she could register her car. “I was turned away before at about 8:20 in the morning.”

This time around, Davis made it through with her daughter, who took off work to be with Davis in line.

"It makes you feel very angry because it shows disrespect on the part of the people who run this thing, disrespect for the common people with babies at home and jobs that they’re missing, and people who have had to miss two or three days of work just to come out," Davis said.

The last time she showed up, she was told she needed to arrive before 7:00 a.m. and expect to be there the whole day. It’s the same mindset John Coleman showed up with.

“This is the only place I’ve been told you can do this,” Coleman, who was in line right after 7:00 a.m. to get a waiver for his vehicle, said. “This is my first time for this. I did come at the end of the year to do property tax, and it was just as crazy. I gave up. I just, I paid a late fee.”

He wants to avoid late fees this time around, and so do residents like Jason Barbour, who recently moved from Kansas to Missouri and needs new plates.

All he needed to do today was set up a tax account, something that can normally happen online.

“At the DMV, they told me that I could set up online or send an email, so I did email them,” Barbour said. “They said it takes 14-16 business days. I’ve been waiting a little over three weeks now.”

So, he decided to come in person to avoid driving with expired tags. He says he did not expect the wait to be like this after coming from a “more efficient” process in Johnson County.

“You can register your spot online, and then you walk in and they’ve got 15, 20, 25 different windows in each location, so you don’t have all these lines, you got appointment times and things like that,” Barbour said.

As the news spreads about long waits, so are solutions.

Even Jackson County legislators like Manny Abarca and Sean Smith are calling out county executives on the issue.

“We used to do this all the time with other county executives,” Abarca said. “There used to be multiple places across city halls, across different county facilities. You should be able to do this in any of our facilities, and you used to be able to. I don’t know why this concentration all in one site.”

KSHB 41 received an email Tuesday evening from the office of Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr.

"Today, our assessment department diligently assisted nearly 300 individuals with their personal property accounts, ensuring that no one was turned away. The County acknowledges the vital importance of efficient and prompt customer service for essential government functions and sincerely apologizes for any inconvenience caused by the extended wait times."
"In response, we are actively pursuing short-term solutions to alleviate congestion. These measures include increasing staff, considering the opening of an additional location at the downtown courthouse, and expanding weekend hours to better accommodate our community's needs."
"Furthermore, the County possesses a viable long-term solution through its new administration building at 1300 Washington. This facility offers free parking, is ADA accessible and provides ample space for residents to wait indoors. However, despite its potential to offer sustained relief, the Legislature is considering selling the recently acquired property instead of allocating funds for necessary renovations."
"Despite this challenge, we remain steadfast in our commitment to maximizing the benefits of this new amenity for the community, ensuring a smoother process for all individuals accessing our services."

In researching this story, KSHB 41 found out something that might help some Jackson County residents.

The Grandview DMV can do some transactions: accepting property tax payments, issue tax receipts and issue copies of tax receipts.