OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has chosen a new computer-services provider to manage its automated fishing and hunting licensing system.

The department has selected Outdoor Central, a subsidiary of Central Trust Bank of Jefferson City, Mo., to upgrade the current recreational licensing system and take over system operations by June 30, 2006, when the department's current contract with MCI expires. The contract provides for system development and operation through Jan. 31, 2011.

In other pending changes to the recreational license system, WDFW is establishing its own in-state call center to support telephone license sales and networked license dealers. The Department's call center is scheduled to be operational by the end of this year. Previously, the support service was provided by an out-of-state call center.

"We listened to our customers and concluded that the best support for license dealers and buyers comes from our staff, who are state residents and familiar with Washington locations and recreational resources," McQueen said.

State fishing and hunting licenses have been sold through an automated system since 2001. The system provides computerized, point-of-sale service at hundreds of private license vendor locations statewide, as well as telephone and Internet license sales.

"We will work closely with Outdoor Central to take advantage of technology advances in developing a licensing system that provides improved service to our customers," said Ron McQueen, WDFW's assistant director for business services.

Selected through a competitive bidding process, Outdoor Central currently provides licensing services to wildlife agencies in more than 15 states. The company also has managed the Internet component of WDFW's current licensing system since its inception in 2001.

"Outdoor Central's track record here and elsewhere was one factor in its selection," McQueen said.

Outdoor Central was one of three bidders for the contract. WDFW managers, technical staff and license dealers reviewed the proposals.

"We took close note of the scores given to each bidder by license dealers, because the dealers will be the front-line users of the new system," McQueen said.

With 600 independent license dealers statewide, WDFW collected more than $27.5 million in revenues last year through the direct sale of hunting and fishing licenses, permits and raffle tickets. Internet sales brought total sales to nearly $30 million. License sales generate approximately 20 percent of the department's operating revenue.

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