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Drivers line up early for new license tabs

"Little black stickers bearing the number 99 are the tell-tale signs of procrastination. The expired license tabs adorned hundreds of cars skirting the Kitsap County Courthouse Monday. And while cars lined up outside, owners lined up inside--taking numbers and free coffee while they waited to buy bright blue tabs for the year 2000.Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn, head of the licensing services at the courthouse, said the license-renewal process is operating at full-tilt this week, curtailed only by the limited number of computers on hand. Flynn’s staff is using computers networked with the state’s licensing system to process each application.“I know that some of my staff will be working overtime to keep up, to process every piece of mail that comes in today,” Flynn said Monday. “Tell people it’s better to mail them (renewals) than to come in (to the courthouse) if they can possibly help it.”Benches outside Flynn’s office were packed Monday. Many people were left standing in line, but the crowd didn’t seem cranky. Most said the money they won’t pay in vehicle tax--an average of $145 per car statewide--was worth the wait. Initiative 695 repealed the state’s motor vehicle excise tax, leaving most car owners in Kitsap County to pay only $30 in tabs plus a $3 filing fee. Although voters approved the measure in November, it took effect Jan. 1, so Monday was the first day vehicle owners could buy the cheaper tabs. Many people waited until this week to renew tabs that expired in December and November, the month when I-695 passed statewide.The first person in the county to get $30 tabs at the courthouse Monday was Grace Cobb of Silverdale. She owns a 1998 Ford Mustang, and she saved $300 with the new tabs.Cobb said that although her 1999 tabs expired in November, “I bought three-day passes and went on vacation” instead of renewing immediately. “I guess I got to drive it nine days of the month,” she said.Cobb expected long, long lines Monday, so she went to the courthouse at 5:30 a.m. “I was the first person to get there, but when I left, it was crowded with about 100 people,” she said.One woman waiting in line for new tabs said her husband planned to renew their vehicle in December. However, when they found out that Kitsap Transit cut service on the bus he rides and raised fees at his park-and-ride lot due to I-695, they decided to take advantage of the initiative by renewing tabs in January.Another tab-buyer, Rhonda Urlacher, renewed her parents’ tabs that would have cost the family $245 last year. She didn’t expect lines to be as long as they were.“I thought these people would be at work or something,” she said.Port Orchard resident Barb Kenyon said she’s saving $220 this year by delaying her car tab renewal. “I figured even if I get a ticket (for driving with expired tabs), that’s a $78 (fine) compared to $220,” she said. But other drivers were far more cautious, buying short trip passes or choosing not to drive at all. Stella Linenko of Port Orchard said her husband wouldn’t even let her drive to the courthouse to get their tabs renewed. “We are true to the laws,” Linenko said. “We were brought up that way.”One woman noted she is on the losing end of the license tab renewal frenzy. On top of waiting in line, Lisa Seamon of Port Orchard will pay $33 this year instead of the $29 she paid last year on her 1987 minivan."

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