ALEA threatens to close driver’s license office

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Residents in Selma and Dallas County could have to drive to Montgomery or Birmingham to get a driver’s license or permit if lawmakers are forced to make cuts to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier announced plans to close 70 offices by March 2016 if the agency doesn’t get enough funding from Alabama legislators.

“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,” Collier said in a statement release last Friday.

Email newsletter signup

The proposed cuts to the General Fund budget would cut 22 percent to 47 percent of funding away from ALEA, according to Collier. He unveiled a plan to start closing down a majority of the offices if cuts to ALEA are made.

Selma is one of the offices that would be closed, but if the plan is put into action it won’t close until March 1, 2016.

“It is going to be a huge loss if it takes place because there are certain things that actually require people to go to an office, such as obtaining a Star I.D., changing addresses on a Star I.D., things such as transferring a drivers license from one state to another, having a drivers license reinstated after a suspension or revocation,” said Alabama State Trooper Reginal King.

“All of those have to be taken care of inside of an office.”

The local services that would be lost also include the road test that is required to obtain a driver’s license and the written test that is required to obtain a driving permit.

The proposed closings would begin Oct. 1 with the closing of offices in rural areas that operate on a part-time basis. The first phase includes 33 offices, which would mean the offices in Hayneville, Marion and Camden would close.

Phase two is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2016, and it includes 29 offices. The third phase includes the Selma office and seven others.

The closings could force people that need to go to an office to visit one of the four remaining locations in Montgomery, Birmingham, Huntsville or Mobile, which is at least a 100-mile round trip.

“It is going to be a great inconvenience. Realistically speaking, there are lots of people in the Black Belt area that don’t have access to things that we have in the larger markets such as Tuscaloosa, the Montgomery area and the Birmingham area,” King said.

“So for those individuals who have to travel, we’re talking 60 to 70 miles for services, and that is an inconvenience in itself.”

King said the closings will also have an effect on wait times, which are already bad in some offices.

“Wait times for services are going to increase substantially. Most functions will require an appointment once they go to these four centralized locations,” King said.

Gov. Robert Bentley called a second special session for Tuesday, Sept. 8 for legislators to try to solve the budget issues.