UPDATE 10:40 a.m. :
GREAT FALLS - The state Department of Justice plans to hire three or four computer software programmers to help fix the motor vehicle records operating system that went on line in April.
Since the new system has been in place, slow processing times have led to long lines as people seek to register vehicles or renew license plates.
Larry Fasbender, deputy director of the Department of Justice, estimates the cost of fixing the program could reach $500,000 including the hiring of programmers as well as time put in by state computer staff.
The state has spent $21 million on the program, the Montana Enhanced Registration and Licensing Information Network, or MERLIN.
In an unrelated action, the state is seeking to have Bearing Point Inc., the technology consultant hired to develop and implement MERLIN, to forfeit a $500,000 bond it was required to post when it got the job. Fasbender said the company breached its contract with the state when it filed for bankruptcy protection in February.
BearingPoint used technology from Denver-based Archon Technologies to implement MERLIN in Montana. 3M, which owns Archon, is working with the state to fix the current problems, Fasbender said.
A lack of "knowledge transfer" between BearingPoint and 3M might be part of the problem, he said.
Some of 3M's employees in Tucson, Ariz., are working on the system remotely and Fasbender said the plan is to hire some of them and bring them to Montana.
The glitches led the state to shut down motor vehicle registration and licensing offices Monday and Tuesday.
"The system isn't going to be fixed when we come on line Wednesday, but we will have fixed a number of problems at that point," Fasbender said.
Fasbender said tests were conducted before the new system was put into use, but the huge volume exposed "basic problems in the architecture."
Two of three phases of MERLIN, an accounting system and motor vehicle licensing, have been put into use. The next phase is adding driver's license data.