Bay Minette Drivers License Office Closed for Good?

UPDATE 5:39PM: The Supreme Court denies Governor Bentley’s request for an opinion. Last week, Bentley mailed a letter to the Supreme Court questioning whether or not lawmakers have the authority to prohibit his administration from closing offices due to budget cuts. A spokesperson for Bentley’s office said they are analyzing the situation and have no further comment. At this point, the offices will still be closed October 1st.

UPDATE 2:12PM: ALEA announces Bay Minette is among 31 rural  offices around the state that are permanently closed due to budget cuts.

There are two other offices in the WKRG viewing area that are closed: Brewton and Chatom.

In a statement released today, ALEA reports the 31 part-time satellite locations accounted for less than five percent of all Alabama Driver License transactions performed by ALEA. The busiest of these 31 satellite locations performed less than 2,000 transactions during 2014.

The employees who originally rotated between satellite offices will now work full-time at district office locations.

Collier wrote in a statement:

“Since the Jan. 1, 2015 implementation date of ALEA, my staff and I have worked hard to make improvements and optimize customer convenience to the citizens of Alabama. In July, I announced several advancements that will help the Driver License issuance process including online scheduling, online driver license renewals and duplicates, self-serve kiosks, digital licensing for smart phones, and statewide equipment upgrades. Since making that announcement, we have had over 40,000 transactions online. The impact of the changes due to the budget cuts will be lessened because of the implementation of these technology-based services, including online renewals.”

ORIGINAL STORY:

If you’re looking at the original list of phase one drivers license office closures, today was supposed to be the last day of operation for the Bay Minette satellite office.

Once a week on Wednesdays, a state worker comes to the Bay Minette police department to issue new licenses.

However, today there was a “closed” sign posted on the door directing drivers to either the Foley and Fairhope offices.

WKRG has learned that the reason for Wednesday’s unexpected closure is because a staff member called out sick and there wasn’t an available replacement. It is unrelated to the agency’s recent budget cuts.

But, for Bay Minette drivers, it may have been their last opportunity to get a new license without having to drive an extra 45 minutes out of their way to another state-run location.

The Bay Minette office was on the list of 33 rural offices around the state that Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier said would have to close Thursday if the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency didn’t receive adequate funding. The ink isn’t dry yet though.

Lawmakers crafted a mandate into the ALEA funding portion of the budget to prohibit the Governor’s administration from closing down driver’s license offices.

ALEA’s budget was slashed by more than $10 million, and Governor Bentley said they won’t be able to operate without closures.

Bentley argued the language in the budget encroaches on the responsibilities of the Executive Branch. He sent a letter to the Supreme Court to determine if lawmakers are allowed to make such a demand.

The Supreme Court has yet to make a decision.

Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell said he’s going to try to fight to keep all the Baldwin County offices open because he said their population is growing rapidly, and the tax revenue from the offices could help the state.

With less than 24 hours until the offices are scheduled to close, the state has not released any official list to the public on those closures.

A spokesperson for ALEA Secretary Spencer Collier said he is out of town and unavailable today.

If you’re looking to renew your license, you can do it online HERE.

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