Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama May Close Some Driver License Offices

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama May Close Some Driver License Offices

Article excerpt

Michael Johnston, 65, waited in the lobby of the Tuscaloosa Driver License Office Wednesday to renew his license. The Birmingham native said he drives to the Tuscaloosa because the waiting period is shorter, even though there were many people ahead of him.

But this year he might be the last he can avoid longer lines.

Four of five stations at the license issuing desk were open Wednesday. But all those stations could be closed by next year.

Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier sent his assistant, John Jenkins, to the Tuscaloosa office Wednesday for a press conference to warn citizens that the state's current budget crisis could result in the closing of all but four state driver license offices across the state.

"Think of the people here that would now have to go other places," Johnston said.

Jenkins said the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, which operates 12 legacy agencies including the Department of Public Safety, was funded a little over $55 million last year.

The state general fund budget for fiscal year 2016 proposed by the Alabama Legislature have suggested cuts to the agency ranging from 22 to 47 percent, Jenkins said.

Other agencies that could be affected are Alabama State Parks and Medicaid.

"Our funding issue is starting to affect our services. If we don't get level funding coming into this year, we're going to have to make some changes in what we do," he said. "If we end up with those types of cuts, Oct. 1, we will have to close 33 of our field offices."

Those offices are smaller branches that represent about 5 percent of driver license transactions across the state each year, he said.

There are a total of 75 offices.

He said phase two would include closing 12 more offices on Jan. 1 and eventually closing all but four locations - Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery - chosen based on their central locations to rural areas.

"This would mean that people that currently have about an hour and a half wait time at our offices will have to drive probably over an hour to get there," Jenkins said.

He said he doesn't know how many employees will be cut as a result, and he doesn't know how much money the agency can save by closing these offices. …

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