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ALEA to cut driver license offices

The Pike County driver license office could close in January 2016 if the Alabama Legislature doesn’t provide adequate funding.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency on Friday announced a phased approach for the closure of driver license offices throughout the state should the Legislature not level fund the 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,” said Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier. “During the 2015 Regular and First Special Sessions, the Legislature proposed General Fund budget cuts ranging from 22% to 47% 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.”

Phase 1 would take place Oct. 1 and would affect 33 field offices. The field offices are in rural areas and operate on a part-time basis where a DL examiner travels from a DL office to a field office a couple of days a week for limited hours. These offices represent 5 percent of all ALEA DL transactions each year.

Offices in Greenville and Luverne would be closed during Phase 1.

Phase 2 would take effect Jan. 1, 2016, and would affect District Offices, leaving only 12 offices statewide. Average drive times to reach an open office for citizens will increase to more than an hour. Current average wait times for services is approximately 1.5 hours; with fewer locations, the wait time for services will substantially increase and most functions will require an appointment.

The Pike County office would be closed during Phase 2.

The office currently is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.

Wes Allen, Pike County Probate Judge, said if the driver license office were to close it would only affect first-time driver license applicants, such as teens or individuals moving from other states because the Probate Judge office would continue to renew driver licenses and non-driver IDs.

“Secretary Collier and his team have worked hard to implement needed technological advancements to make ALEA more efficient and effective for the people of Alabama. It is my hope that Secretary Collier and the legislature can find innovative ways to keep these district Driver’s License offices open to serve the public,” Allen said. “This proposed plan by ALEA will not effect the Pike County Probate Office. We will continue to serve as a vendor for ALEA. Our office will continue to renew driver’s licenses and non-driver ID’s.”

Phase 3 would take effect March 1, 2016, and if enacted would move all operations to four offices which would be located in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile.

Collier said the looming budget crises in government services are creating a “statewide problem that will affect each of us. Governor Bentley’s solution is an easy, workable and fair proposal that will raise $300 million in revenue and help the state continue to provide these services to Alabama citizens. Please contact your Legislator and ask them to support Governor Bentley’s solution to the budget crisis and put our state on a strong path forward.”

After failing to resolve the budget crisis during the most recent special session, lawmakers are expected to be called back to Montgomery to address the issue prior to Oct. 1.