It’s business as usual at the local motor vehicle department until further notice. The Williams MVD is one of 22 locations that could be closed due to budget contraints.
You never know how much you’ll miss something until it’s gone. Sure, but how about the Motor Vehicle Division? For many of us it can be a hassle, but a trip to the MVD is something we all have to do at one time or another. Now imagine having to travel an extra 30-100 miles to conduct the same business.
It’s a reality Williams and other area residents may have to face. Due to drastic budget cuts, the Arizona Department of Transportation has recently submitted paperwork to the Justice Department asking permission to close 22 of its 62 statewide MVD offices. Most of the targeted locations are in rural areas and “remote” towns such as Williams.
ADOT needs the permission because of a law enacted in the 1960’s requiring motor vehicle offices to carry voter registration forms.
“I wouldn’t like it,” says Williams area resident Chris Benz when asked about the possible closure. “It takes all day to go up to Flagstaff and deal with the MVD up there, where as here it’s a lot shorter.”
MVD spokesperson Cydney DeModica says that the plan is only a “worst-case scenario contingency” and adds that in all likelihood if the ADOT were to close remote locations, only two or three would actually be shut down.
“The smaller rural locations would be the last on our list,” DeModica said. “We were experiencing drastic cuts right up to the end of fiscal year 2003, which ended June 30 and the major impact of these cutbacks has been kept to the Maricopa County area.”
Contingency or not, many are worried because once the ADOT gets permission, the state could shut down the locations at any time.
Representative Steve Gallardo (D-Phoenix) is a supporter of the MVD, but opposes the plan.
“The MVD offers more than just vehicle licensing and title services. They also carry voter registration forms and for many of the rural locations, it’s the only place one can get them. If they do shut down, many people won’t be able to vote,” Gallardo said.
“I don’t think we should leave those communities high and dry,” said Arizona Senator Ken Bennett (R), who when asked about the plan, offered a few alternatives. “Instead of shutting them down, I would look at finding ways to combine the offices with other state agencies or subcontract the services out to private companies.”
When asked about Bennett’s suggestions, MVD spokesperson DeModica said that the ADOT has already taken similar steps in areas such as Phoenix, Prescott and Ajo.
The possible shutdown of the Williams MVD, however, is not problem exclusive to Williams residents. Since the Williams MVD office services vehicle owners from as far away as Seligman, many would have to either buy themselves a computer and conduct their business online or drive as much as 100 miles or more to the next MVD location. “Any [MVD] office away from Seligman is 75 miles except for this one, and this one is nice…you don’t have to stand in line three or four hours, so it would be a real inconvenience,” said Mike Gillen, Seligman resident and owner of the Black Cat Bar.
So much for keeping the customers happy, but what about the employees? There seems to be only two options: Either transfer and relocate or change careers. One employee of the Williams MVD office, Teresa Price, is worried about what she’ll do if the office is closed.
“I came from Phoenix originally, moved to Flagstaff, then sold property in Flagstaff to move to Williams. I don’t want to have to move again,” Price said.
So far, ADOT has not received permission from the Justice Department for the closings. Officials say the Federal government has asked for more information and it may not be until the end of August before more is known.
Those wishing to voice their concerns about the plan can write a letter addressed to: ADOT MVD, Attn: Director’s Office, Mail Drop 500M, P.O. Box 2100, Phoenix AZ, 85001-2100.