Cumberland Times-News

Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors

April 7, 2012

Ten miles around the block

Jim and Robin Wiegand, who own and operate the Bassin’ Box in LaVale, have a vision of the upcoming deer season.

It’s the Friday night after Thanksgiving Day. It’s a little before closing time. At daylight on Saturday, the Maryland firearms deer season will begin.

Through the door come five hunters from York, Pa., looking to buy their hunting licenses. Two are adults. Three qualify for a nonresident junior hunting license.

Then the droppings hit the fan.

“The adults will probably be fine because they have driver’s licenses and know their Social Security numbers,” Jim Wiegand said during an in-store interview Tuesday. “But it is very unlikely that the kids will have a state-issued identification card or know their Social Security numbers. We won’t be able to sell them licenses.”

Just this week the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ new licensing system was activated across the state.

It’s called COMPASS and depends totally upon personal computers, whether they be in your home or at a license agent.

The Bassin’ Box was one of 27 license agents statewide that participated in a pilot program for COMPASS during March.

“There’s going to be a lot of Maryland kids wanting to buy a youth hunting license that will face the same thing,” Robin Wiegand said. “They will need to know their Social Security numbers and have a state ID card issued by Motor Vehicles (Administration). That’s the new rule and DNR tells us there are no exceptions.”

Under the old system of license sales, DNR supplied agents with computers and materials.

With COMPASS, a store must supply everything: personal computer, paper, ink.

“We’re $2,200 into this thing now,” Jim Wiegand said. “I thought a pilot program was meant so you could work out the kinks. We tried to tell DNR about the problems and they said nothing would be changed.”

Robin Wiegand said selling a license at the store takes a minimum of 15 minutes. “And that’s if the computer doesn’t lock up.”

Jim Wiegand said the software for the sales is outdated.

Robin Wiegand worked through a practice license sale. A birth date that could have been keystroked in a few seconds had to be scrolled for each of the month, day and year, taking considerably longer.

“Think about that when you have 10 or 15 people in line waiting to buy licenses,” Jim Wiegand said. “It takes four commands just to print a license. I’d like the top license guy from Annapolis to come here and sit down for a couple hours while we’re selling licenses just to see what I’m talking about.”

Len Singel is that guy.

On Tuesday Singel said four of the 40 license agents in the agency’s western region chose to bail out once talk began about COMPASS.

“Two more are on the fence and will likely discontinue,” he added. Singel said seven Cumberland businesses are waiting to become license agents within the COMPASS system.

Hunting and fishing licenses can be bought from home computers as well. The customer can immediately print the licenses, but in about 30 minutes will be emailed a copy of the license for electronic safekeeping. In addition, the fee of a dollar-plus for the home computer purchase of a license has been scuttled.

Online customers will get a customer ID card to be used when buying future licenses.

“To me,” Robin Wiegand said, “selling a license now is like running 10 miles to go around the block.”

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors
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