Two driver’s license testing offices in Shelby County on possible closure list
Published 3:41 pm Monday, August 31, 2015
By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer
Two driver’s license testing offices in Shelby County are on a list of offices throughout the state that could close in early 2016 if the Alabama Legislature passes budget cuts affecting the agency maintaining the offices.
Driver’s license testing offices in Columbiana and Pelham are among nearly 30 offices in Phase 2 of the projected closures on Jan. 1, 2016, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
“Currently, ALEA maintains 75 driver license district and field offices across the state but budget allocations do not cover costs and we operate with an $8.2 million deficit,” Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier wrote in a release. “During the 2015 regular and first special sessions, the Legislature proposed General Fund budget cuts ranging from 22 percent to 47 percent cut from ALEA’s Fiscal Year 2015 appropriation. Should the Legislature pass devastating budget cuts, it will be necessary for the Licensing Division to close driver license district and field offices statewide.”
Shelby County Chief Financial Officer Butch Burbage said the closures in Shelby County would only apply to driver’s license testing offices.
“It won’t affect Shelby County residents as far as tags, titles or boats, or renewals,” Burbage said. “It’s the first issuances and 15- and 16-year-olds taking driver’s testing.”
In July, Collier announced a series of technology-based improvements that will result in more efficient service and shorter wait times for residents, including online scheduling, online driver license renewals, self-serve kiosks, digital licensing for smart phones and statewide equipment upgrades.
Phase 1 will see 33 field offices close on Oct. 1, the release read. Field offices, which represent 5 percent of all ALEA driver’s license transactions each year, are in rural areas and operate on a part-time basis with a driver’s license examiner travels from a driver’s license office to a field office a couple of days a week for limited hours.
Phase 2 applies to district offices closing, leaving only 12 offices statewide with average drive times to reach an open office for residents increasing to more than an hour.
Current average wait times for services is about an hour-and-a-half, and with fewer locations, the wait time for services will increase and most functions will require an appointment.
Phase 3 would see all operations move to four offices located in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile on March 1, 2016.